Judge rejects attempt to cancel SAG-AFTRA merger vote

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A federal judge has a blocked a request for a temporary injunction that would have scuttled a vote on merging the Screen Actors Guild with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Ed Asner, Martin Sheen and Ed Harris were among a group of actors who filed a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles last month seeking an injunction to stop SAG from calling for a vote on the proposed merger with AFTRA.


But, as was widely expected, a federal judge denied the request, clearing the way for the unions to count ballots this Friday. The merger would be ratified only if at least 60% of those who vote approve the plan.

“Voting in favor of merger may or may not be in the best interest of the majority of union members,’’ wrote Judge James Otero. ‘But the decision, for better or worse, belongs to the members –- not to plaintiffs, and certainly not to the court.”

The lawsuit alleged that the SAG board breached its fiduciary duties to conduct an actuarial impact study detailing the effects of the proposed merger on health and pension benefits for SAG members. SAG’s board overwhelmingly approved a plan to merge with the smaller actors union, arguing that doing so would give them more leverage in negotiations with the studios and end years of turf wars between the two labor groups.

“We are pleased with the court’s action denying the requested injunction and dismissing one of the plaintiff’s major claims in this matter,’’ SAG Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said. ‘We are also gratified that the court has indicated that the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail on their other claims. It has been our position all along that these complaints were completely without merit and that the members will ultimately decide the future of their unions.”


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--Richard Verrier