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After years of strife, 2 actors unions vote to come together
LOS ANGELES (AP) ' The nation's two actors unions have merged, nearly a decade after last trying to do so.
That signals an end to years of conflict and division that had long given Hollywood studios the advantage in negotiations.
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the smaller of the two unions, had tried to merge with the Screen Actors Guild in 1998 and 2003, but those efforts failed.
AFTRA members approved the merger, with 86 percent supporting. SAG members also voted in favor, with 82 percent in support.
"In a single day, our future has become brighter," said Ken Howard, who upon approval of the merger became co-president of the newly combined union, SAG-AFTRA.
Roberta Reardon, the other co-president, echoed those remarks. "Finally, we are able to speak with one truly unified voice."
The fateful decision to negotiate with the studios separately in 2008 and 2009 caused a rift that allowed the studios to play the unions off of each other. That strategic mistake brought new leadership to SAG, which made merging a top priority.
The combined union now has more than 150,000 members. Previously SAG had about 125,000 members while AFTRA had about 70,000. Because work had been split between the unions, about 45,000 actors had membership in both unions and had to pay dues to both.
In materials supporting the merger, the unions said basic dues would go down for dual card-holders by 20 percent, but go up for those who had been members of one union or the other.