Publicly at least it appears from this report that the new AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, avoided the entertainment guilds’ hot button issue, the proposed merger of SAG and AFTRA, when he addressed the Regional Board of the Screen Actors Guild in Washington, D.C.
Behind the scenes, however, there can be little doubt the AFL supports merger. The Executive Council now has the AFTRA President sitting on its board alongside the SAG President who sits as a representative not of SAG per se but of the 4A’s. AFTRA recently hired several senior experienced AFL staffers who are to be based, somewhat oddly, in Washington, D.C. not LA. This may suggest their role is to assist the AFTRA senior staff with the merger campaign as much as it is to assist with actual new organizing.
Of course new organizing is closely related to the merger issue – as AFTRA took over more pilots this year it sparked controversy about merger. That issue was highlighted in an article in the LA Times recently suggesting that only merger could solve the problem of actors splitting work between the two unions and thus hurting their eligibility for the unions’ pension and health insurance plans. Of course, there are alternatives to outright merger as I pointed out here and the LA Times story not only ignored those but also failed to explain the Producers’ role in pitting the unions against each other.
I published an op-ed about President Trumka when he first was elected last year. It appeared in about a dozen papers and you can read one version here.