SAG/AFTRA Merger Myth #1 Punctured

SAG and AFTRA leaders go to great lengths to convince actors that with a new organization stitching together both unions that it will be easier for actors to earn credits in their pension and health care plans.

There was even a misleading report that a “feasibility” review of merger of those plans had been conducted by some lawyers (!) affiliated with SAG and AFTRA that led union members to (falsely) conclude or argue that indeed merger of the unions would mean a straightforward merger of the plans.

But now AFTRA’s own leadership has thrown cold water on that idea. The trustees of AFTRA’s plans, which includes leading AFTRA members, issued what even the “hot for merger” SAGWatch site admitted was an “unusual” announcement that the merger of the plans will be a long and complicated process conducted, if at all, quite separately from the proposed merger of the unions.

“Although there is no doubt that plan mergers are legally permissible in appropriate circumstances, the merger of pension and health funds as large and divergent as the AFTRA and SAG plans raises complex and unique financial, legal and benefit issues which can only be addressed through a comprehensive analysis performed by the funds,” the AFTRA trustees said. “No position has been, or will be, taken by the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds Trustees or its co-counsel until such time as a comprehensive feasibility study is performed.”

That statement should not be considered a surprise and the pro-merger leaders of the two unions have only themselves to blame. The merger of the plans is subject to an entirely different set of legal and financial problems than the unions and of course the plans are independent entities that are jointly governed with the employers/producers.

The pro-merger union leaders knew this yet they also know that one of the major propaganda points they are using to secure the needed approval of the union rank and file is to promote the idea that a merger of the unions will lead to a merger of the plans that will in turn make it easier for union members to vest.

And yet they also know that settling the many conflicts between the two plans (such as differences in vesting schedules and benefit levels) could not possibly be resolved prior to a merger of the unions. They are hoping the membership will ignore this reality. In fact, a new video promoting merger produced by the two unions includes a misleading statement by Allen Lulu, a merger advocate, suggesting that merger of the unions will mean easier vesting.

So finally Merger Myth #1 has been punctured. Merger – well not really a merger but something akin to a stitching together like Frankenstein – of the unions will decidedly not mean merger of the health and pension plans.

Now, how long will it take the unions’ membership to realize that the “merger” will not in fact increase bargaining leverage against the producers?

That is Merger Myth #2 and I will leave that to another time.

SAGWatch – AFTRA H&R Trustees Issue Merger Non Statement.

3 thoughts on “SAG/AFTRA Merger Myth #1 Punctured”

  1. Producers are already treating actors like this merger has happened. Actors are getting screwed over with there contracts. They’re putting out breakdowns and not even labeling them a Sag or aftra project. Its like theyre testing the water to see what they can get away with via the actor. But Aftra allowed this to happen beginning in 2009. What is already dying out is actors getting what they are entitled to and being treated like the worthy professionals they are…. except if your a star!

  2. Thank you for your comment. I disagree, however, that the producers have nothing to gain from a merger. They do. Union competition often increases the level of activity in an industry. With just one union it is very likely that the employers expect far less rank and file energy in the post-SAG environment. More importantly, when one adds the weight of the more conservative newscasters to the moderate elements in SAG the overall weight of union politics will clearly be in a moderate direction. That signals that SAG/AFTRA remain on board with the producers even as technology makes that relationship far less profitable than in the past. Clearly the producers voted with their feet when they shifted cable pilots to AFTRA. And they welcome the new developments almost without question.

  3. I agree that merging the two P&H funds will be complicated. And I think they will probably remain seperate for a while after the merger.

    But in the long-run as contracts of SAG and AFTRA run their courses and become SAG/AFTRA contracts the funds will come under a common umbrella.

    Also remember that 1/2 of the trustees for these funds are PRODUCERS and they really have no gain in merging the two unions.

    But if we don’t merge, the profession of “actor” as a non-star but good middle class job will simply die out.
    My worry is that the politics of this will out weigh the good of the actors.

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