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SAG-AFTRA Merger: Judge Won’t Block Vote

Federal judge James Otero rejects an injunction to block the vote on the SAG-AFTRA merger

Last Updated: March 28, 2012 @ 6:29 PM

Federal judge James Otero on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit that would have blocked the proposed merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The results of the vote by the roughly 130,000 members of the two unions are to be announced Friday. A yes vote by 60 percent of the voters is required for passage.

Also read: SAG-AFTRA Merger Opponents Outline Their Concerns

Otero, a judge in the Central District of California, turned down the request for an injunction filed by more than 60 SAG members, including Martin Sheen and Ed Harris.

The suit asked the judge to require the union to perform a study on the effects that a merger will have on benefits. Opponents of the merger say the guilds have failed to advise the membership of the potential negative consequence that wedding the unions could have on benefit packages.

Supporters of the plan argue that merging the two unions will improve their negotiating power with studios and other media companies while strengthening their pension and health plans.

Rather than offer an opinion on the plan, Otero focused on whether it was his role to interfere with the process.

"Judicial interference with the members' right to decide whether they would like to proceed with merger despite the lack of concrete information about benefits would not serve this public policy, particularly given that the vote will not bring about merger of the health and pension plans."

Otero wrote that while the merger may impact benefits, there is not sufficient evidence that the SAG violated any labor laws.

"The democratic process does not always yield the most desirable results for all."

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.