The Other Shoe Drops

If there was any uncertainty about the meaning of the split of AFTRA from the 4 A’s (see next post) it has now been made perfectly clear – they are moving towards what could be a merger with IATSE. IATSE, or the “IA” as it is known, is the below the line AFL-CIO affiliate that has long been plagued by allegations of internal corruption and lack of democracy. A wave of democratic reform has, however, made important changes in some of the union’s locals, like 600 in LA and 798 in NY.

That leaves S.A.G. and Actors Equity left inside the 4 A’s. Of course, Equity is now headed by S.A.G.’s long time rival John Connolly. (For some background on longstanding tensions between S.A.G. and AFTRA click on this link: AFTRA Hits 70, Sees Open Road)

The just announced strategic alliance may be one of the first fruits to fall from the new ICC tree – the ICC is the industry coordinating committee set up in the EMI sector by the AFL-CIO. In their joint press release on the alliance, the IA and AFTRA stated: “Both unions are members of the Department for Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO, and were leaders in the development of the Arts, Entertainment and Media Industry Coordinating Committee of the Federation.” AFTRA has been understood to have been a key player in forming the AEMI ICC. S.A.G. has been leery of the new entity because of the potential for pressure from the top down to bend the Guild to the wishes of the AFL-CIO.

There is no doubt that the EMI unions need to consider organizational alternatives in order to face up to the large multinationals dominating the industry, but is there really a plan in place here? If so, I don’t see it and I wonder if the leadership does either. Merger for the sake of merger usually does a handful of officials some personal good (much like in the private sector where CEO ego drives many corporate acquisitions) but the question to be asked is what is the strategic plan that will have some chance of strengthening labor’s hand as the industry rapidly evolves.