Members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have finally approved the merger plan of both labor unions. On Friday, March 30, SAG-AFTRA National Co-President Ken Howard confirmed the merger as hoping that "in a single day our future become bright."
86% of voting AFTRA members approved the union, while 82% of SAG ballots endorsed the merger. "With this historic vote, members of both unions have affirmed one of the most basic principles of unionism: 'Together we are stronger'," said Howard in a statement. "This merger, the result of months, really years, of planning, brings together the best elements of both unions and positions us well to thrive in the changing 21st century media landscape."
Another National Co-President, Roberta Reardon, added, "The merger of these two unions is a huge victory for our members, and it is a monumental achievement for the labor movement." She said, "As this vote today proves, great and transformative things are possible when working Americans stand together and shape their collective destiny through their union. I applaud every member who voted, and invite all members, locally and nationally, to join with us in building a successor union worthy of AFTRA and SAG."
The merger marks a great victory for the two unions, who have been promoting to join forces following a dispute erupting in 2008. Discussions about the union began in April 2010, but the formal negotiation did not start until summer 2011. The newly combined union aims to keep revenue around $100 million the first year, but expects to see savings in subsequent years.
SAG, which was founded in 1933, and AFTRA, which was established in 1952, were created to handle different media. While SAG focuses on the motion picture field, AFTRA works on radio and TV. The functions, however, became unclear with the rise of cable TV and Internet. With the merger, both unions can negotiate with Hollywood studios from a position of greater strength.
SAG has more than 125,000 actors, while AFTRA represents more than 70,000 members that include actors, broadcasters, disc jockey, singers and dancers. Members of both unions include around 40,000 people.