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AFTRA's Weekend Bombshell: Cut Ties
With SAG ... Picket Lines On The Horizon?
March 31, 2008
The long-running uneasy alliance between AFTRA and SAG - the two major performers unions in the U.S. - was blown apart Saturday when AFTRA's board voted to cut its bargaining pact ties with SAG.
Now, following a bitter writers strike, the two unions are heading separately into contract negotiations with studios and TV producers - and some see picket lines on SAG's horizon.
Many voice actors belong to both unions, though more are members of AFTRA, which traditionally is routed in radio and television.
The Amercian Federation of Television and Radio Artists and the Screen Actors Guild have bickered and threatened each other for decades over numerous issues. But they'd banded to form a powerhouse for negotiating contracts.
In a March 30 Los Angeles Times article, Key Actors Unions Split, staff writer Claudia Eller details the acrimonious history of the AFTRA/SAG partnership, and the fears about what's to come.
"AFTRA's move to break off from SAG seemed to be timed for maximum effect," writes Eller, "especially given that the two unions had unanimously approved joint proposals for a new film and prime-time television contract that were expected to be presented to the studios in the coming weeks."
The split "could embolden SAG ... to call a strike because its negotiations would be led by the union's hard liners," Eller says. 
Roberta Reardon, AFTRA's national president said in a statement:
"During the past year, AFTRA has fought hard and expended an enormous amount of time, energy and resources to maintain the integrity of our Phase One joint bargaining process with the Screen Actors Guild, so we could sit across the table from the industry with total and unequivocal unity.

"Unfortunately, SAG leadership has made this impossible.
"For the past year SAG leadership in Hollywood has engaged in a relentless campaign of disinformation and disparagement, culminating in a recent attempt to decertify an AFTRA daytime soap opera.
"As a result of this continued and ongoing behavior by SAG leadership, which at its core harms all working performers and the labor movement, we find ourselves unable to have any confidence in their ability to live up to the principles of partnership and union solidarity.
"AFTRA believes it must devote its full energies to working on behalf of performers, and not wasting time assessing whether our partner is being honest with us.
"With this in mind, the AFTRA National Board voted overwhelmingly in favor of suspending Phase One, and negotiating the primetime television contract on our own. We are now prepared to move forward and negotiate a strong contract for our members as soon as possible.

"This action was taken in the hope that someday, the historic trust between these two organizations can be rebuilt--in the best interests of all performers."
Voice actor Bobbin Beam - a long-time member of both AFTRA and SAG, and a former AFTRA employee and union leader - says she's not surprised by AFTRA's salvo in the war between the unions.
But this "falls neatly into the studio's hands," she writes in AFTRA & SAG: So Much For Solidarity, a related commentary on VoiceOverXtra. "Divide and conquer. Unfortunately, the actors unions did most of their work for them."
Beam also wrote Unions: Should You Join? Consider How It Will Affect You And Income, for VoiceOverXtra. In that article, she cautions that while unions deliver many benefits to members, they also expect picket line support when push comes to shove in contract negotiations.
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