SAG Board Votes to Expand AFTRA Joint Bargaining Agreement

Move comes as Membership First ramps up its anti-merger rhetoric amid the run-up to Sept. 23 board elections

Ramping for what will surely be a heated battle between pro and anti AFTRA-merger voices within SAG, the Screen Actors Guild national board this weekend voted to begin negotiation on a new Educational and Industrial contract alongside its sister labor org.

UPDATE: The two organizations also met by videoconference plenary in Los Angeles and New York Sunday and approved a package of proposals for the upcoming joint AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical negotiations, which are set to kick off Sept. 27.

The SAG board's authorization for chief negotiator David White to expand the guild's joint-bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Radio and TV Artists comes amid stepped-up opposition from anti-merger Membership First voices within SAG, in the run-up to the guild's Sept. 23 national-board elections.

The board also voted to explore working with AFTRA on a new live-action cable deal.

Currently, the pro-merger Unite for Strength coalition, led by national president Ken Howard, has the upper hand by a somewhat narrow margin. 

However, board candidate Clint Howard last week sent out a memo to the guild's Hollywood branch last week, accusing Unite for Strength for charging headlong down the road toward labor-org merger without understanding the full ramifications. 

"UFS has absolutely NO MERGER PLAN," Clint Howard wrote. "UFS and its founder, Ned Vaughn, want to merge now and work out the details later." Vaughn want to merge now and work out the details later."

Under Ken Howard, SAG has stepped up its collaboration with AFTRA, with the aim of possibly combining the two labor organizations at some point. Two previous attempts at combining the two organizations in past years were shot down by the SAG voting body.

In addition to authorizing White to begin negotiations on a new Industrial and Education contract alongside AFTRA, the SAG national board also delegated bargaining authority to its cable negotiating committees and White for the Basic Cable Live Action, TV Animation and Basic Cable Animation agreements.