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SAG Asks Court to Dismiss Merger Lawsuit

A hearing is schedule for four days before ballots are due to be returned

The Screen Actors Guild is filing a motion on Friday to dismiss a lawsuit from opponents of a proposed merger with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, according to an individual with knowledge of the litigation. 

The latest legal volley over the controversial merger, comes after 68 SAG members — among them Martin Sheen, Ed Harris,Valerie Harper and Edward Asner — filed a suit last Wednesday to prevent a vote on the plan.

In it, the union members argue that SAG's board of directors breached its fiduciary duties by failing to conduct a study detailing the effects that joining with AFTRA will have on pension and health benefits.

Also read: SAG Merger Opponents File Suit to Prevent Vote

It does not appear that SAG's plans to send out ballots on the merger this Monday will be delayed, despite the frenzy of legal activity around the plan.  

Tallying the votes, however, might be put on pause. The ballots were scheduled to be returned by March 30, but a federal court hearing is set for four days before the votes are due back. That could disrupt the timeline. 

A spokeswoman for the plaintiffs did not immediately provide comment. 

Attorneys for SAG plan to argue that contrary to the plaintiffs' claims, the union has conducted a feasibility study. It also plans to argue that it has no legal obligation to provide a “meaningful vote" on the merger matter to its members — though it claims that characterization is false. 

Further, SAG contends that department of labor regulations allow it to move forward with an interim board for up to five years after the merger takes place.

Opponents of the merger with AFTRA argue that  joining the two unions would impose an entire slate of new board members and officers, while prohibiting opposing candidates from running. 

SAG lawyers will ask the plaintiffs to pay for attorneys' fees. 

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