Actors Fail to Stop SAG-AFTRA Merger Vote

Judge squashes motion for injunction; voting results expected Friday

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Cindy Barrymore
    Actor Martin Sheen led the effort to stop a proposed SAG-AFTRA merger.

    Despite the legal effort of a handful of high-profile actors, a vote to merge the Screen Actors Guild with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists will move forward with the results expected to be announced Friday.

    Plaintiffs, including Martin Sheen, Ed Asner and Valerie Harper, filed a lawsuit to stop the vote, arguing that a proper impact study to measure the merger's effect on pension and health benefits was never conducted.

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    On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge James Otero denied the motion for injunction.

    "Voting in favor of merger may or may not be in the best interest of the majority of union members. But the decision, for better or worse, belongs to the members -- not to plaintiffs, and certainly not to the court," Otero wrote in the decision.

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    Several well-known actors are fighting the merger between the two main actors' unions. (Published Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012)

    Court Ruling: Martin Sheen, et al. v. Screen Actors Guild, et al. (PDF)

    SAG was pleased with the ruling, said the union's Deputy National Executive Director and General Counsel, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland.

    "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," Crabtree-Ireland said in a statement.

    The voting results from both unions were expected to be announced Friday. At least 60 percent approval is needed to approve the merger.

    SAG currently represents more than 125,000 actors, while AFTRA has a membership of 70,000.

    Documents: SAG Complaint (Conformed Copy) | SAG-AFTRA Merger Agreement (PDF) | SAG-AFTRA Constitution (PDF) | Feasibility Report (PDF)

    The judge left some of the lawsuit intact, leaving the door open to overturning a merger, said the plaintiffs' attorney, David B. Casselman.

    "If the membership does vote to merge, the lawsuit has not been terminated, and legally we're entitled to proceed, which includes discovery and efforts to prove that the election was improperly swayed by the breaches of fiduciary duty alleged in the complaint," Casselman said.

    There's also justification for a future class-action lawsuit, assuming the merger passes and benefits decline, Casselman said.

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