Local actors who voted for and against the merger of the Screen
Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio
Artists, agree that union members must work together to protect their
interests from corporate Hollywood.
The referendum, which would have consolidated the two unions into
a 150,000-member mega-union for working actors called the Alliance of
International Media Artists, fell 2.2% short of the 60% majority
needed by SAG voters to implement it, with 33,626 members voting in
favor of the merger. AFTRA voters approved the consolidation by
78.5%, or 27,553 votes.
Burbank resident and former SAG Chairman Steven Barr said he voted
against the proposal mainly because he believed the union failed to
provide balanced information, causing distrust and leading to
dissension among voters.
“If they would have given us a minority report, it probably would
have passed,” Barr said. “But the fact that they didn’t made people
Barr, a 20-year member of both unions, said that although merging
the unions was a good idea in theory, he rejected the proposal
primarily because he said pensions and health-care plans would be
weakened, and SAG would lose its autonomy.
Joseph Di Sante, a longtime member of both unions who voted for
the merger, said SAG’s history of distrust of leadership by members
is its greatest weakness. That, he added, ultimately distracts the
union from its purpose.
“I’ve been in these unions since 1965, and I can’t understand why
people can’t see who the real enemy is -- not one another but the
giant conglomerates, and they’re always going to be,” he said.
Di Sante, who worked as the head of special services for ABC-TV
for 27 years, juggled his administrative duties with sporadic TV
acting jobs. During that time, he said he observed a general
sentiment of animosity among entertainment industry executives toward
Despite their disagreements, Barr said SAG members would likely
always remain united.
“You have to consider the alternative: no union,” Barr said. “Then
[every actor] will work for $50 a day.”
Ilyanne Kichaven, spokesperson for SAG, said the election was the
closest in the union’s history, and with 54% of members returning
mail-in ballots, it was also the union’s largest voter turnout.
Although divided, she added, SAG members still want both unions to
work together in a cooperative manner.