Actors unions break ranks

Times Staff Writer

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has made good on its threat to break ranks with its more powerful sister union, the Screen Actors Guild.

AFTRA’s board of directors voted Saturday to separately negotiate its upcoming prime-time television contract with the major studios -- without SAG at the bargaining table.

The decision effectively ends a 27-year partnership between the two unions under which they had jointly negotiated film and prime-time TV contracts. It also could complicate key upcoming negotiations for actors, whose contract expires June 30, potentially allowing the studios to play off one union against the other.


Tensions between the groups, which have clashed over turf and contract terms in cable TV, boiled over recently when SAG’s board urged members to scrap the long-standing agreement and replace it with one that is more equitable.

SAG’s beef is that it must split votes with AFTRA, even though the guild’s members account for the vast majority of earnings. SAG represents 120,000 film and TV actors. AFTRA has more than 70,000 members, including journalists, broadcasters and recording artists. The unions have 44,000 members in common.

For its part, AFTRA has accused SAG of being run by a militant Hollywood faction that wants to muzzle the voice of moderates.

“AFTRA has a responsibility to move forward and negotiate our agreement for prime-time network TV dramatic programming,” AFTRA National President Roberta Reardon said. “We cannot abdicate our fiduciary obligations to AFTRA members by allowing another institution to dictate the terms of our long-standing contracts or control our negotiating timeline.”

In a statement, SAG President Alan Rosenberg called Reardon’s claims “untrue” and said his union was committed to producing a “fairer, stronger bargaining relationship” between the two unions, not ending the partnership altogether.

Both SAG and AFTRA have begun preparing for negotiations on a new contract to replace one that expires June 30. AFTRA is expected to begin negotiations in early March.


On Sunday, AFTRA said the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, had granted its request for a charter. AFTRA, which has been affiliated with a separate actors federation, said the charter affirms its goal of becoming an independent union and will give it more clout in negotiations as well as put it on a more equal footing with other labor groups, such as the American Federation of Musicians.