SAG & AFTRA Turf War isn’t New

by | General

I used to work within the local AFTRA-Screen Actors Guild office here in San Diego “back in the day”, when there was a Blue Ribbon Committee comprised of select members from both union’s national boards and pension and health plan trustees to explore the feasibility of a merger.

Many members of both unions also served on both national boards. The sentiment was at the time, “We are staring into the future, and we should combine to become a stronger force to contend with the merger and acquisition activity at TV Networks and conglomeration within the Producers’ community.”

That was around 1990. Merger made perfect sense to the majority, since in 1981 the “Phase One” Agreement resulted in a 50-50 power split in joint contract negotiations. The union spirit was alive and well. 

I exited my staff position at the union office in 1994 and re-activated my membership in both unions.

The Merger came up for a vote eventually, but failed. I found an intriguing article from Daily Variety in 1998 that summed it up.

“The only thing that is keeping this house of cards from collapsing is the prospect of merger,” the pro side said. “If we choose not to merge right now, we almost certainly are choosing to go into battle. The only sure winners: our employers.”

I obviously voted FOR merger, and was stunned that it failed by about 200 votes.

Fast forward to  August 15, 2007. Here’s the latest from Daily Variety on the growing turf war. Funny, there were always leaks from the national board room to the press.  Now the battle between AFTRA-SAG is being fought in the press. As I see it, The two unions have never been further apart.

Although the turf war isn’t new, there’s something about the recent turn of events that’s making me feel this time is very different from past squabbles. It’s getting downrght bitter.

SAG is taking the fight over AFTRA’s signing of digital projects to the AFL-CIO over shared  jurisdictional issues. SAG is also vying for a 90-10 power split in next year’s pivotal joint contract negotiations, which could result in deadlocks based on the allocations set forth in Phase One. The move could tirgger a formal intervention and ruling by the AFL-CIO.

AFTRA’s National Board voted last month to form a stragegic alliance with ITATSE, which has been critical of past SAG policies.  AFTRA requested to make a direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO, and end its affiliation wth the umbrella org (Actors and Artistes of America), that belongs to the AFL-CIO, and by the way, includes SAG. 

The real drama just doesn’t happen on the set.

I’d like to hold out some hope, however. If after 22 years, David Lee Roth can rejoin Van Halen and go on tour, perhaps AFTRA and SAG can reconcile their differences, kiss and make up, for the member’s sake.


  1. Hi Bobbin,

    Thank you for sharing this information. It will be interesting to watch how everything unfolds.



  2. Don’t miss these insights from my friend Bobbin Beam

    Bobbin Beam is not only a very talented female voiceover artist, she’s quite a gifted writer. That skill, along with the ability to think clearly and carefully about what she’s writing, shines very brightly in her recent blog post about the…

Advertising will end in 
This content is private
Please enter valid password!