The opportunity to report to you jointly as Co-Secretary Treasurers of one union means that a goal we’ve personally aspired to and worked toward for years has finally been realized. Your overwhelming vote in favor of merging SAG and AFTRA is proof that this vision was widely shared, and that makes it all the more gratifying.
There were obvious long-term financial advantages to pooling our resources and consolidating our operations. But the creation of a new union was also an opportunity to rethink our approach and priorities, so the crafting of SAG-AFTRA’s financial structure was guided by what you—the members—told told us you wanted: A union positioned for aggressive organizing. A union with the resources to enforce its contracts. Enough money in reserve so that we can take strong stands in future negotiations. We feel confident that the plan you endorsed in the merger vote creates a sound foundation for us to begin to reach those objectives.
In the short time since the merger passed, progress is already being made. As you know, SAG-AFTRA’s staff was able to generate and mail dues bills reflecting the new rates a mere two weeks after the vote. While nobody likes to receive a bill, getting those out in time was a feat that was absolutely critical to maintaining uninterrupted operations – and service—for you. The bills reflected the newly approved dues structure which, as the merger documents clearly illustrated, was a compromise between AFTRA’s and SAG’s very different work dues rates. Dues responsibilities were also slightly shifted from where they were with either union, with rates lowered for most members earning less, and somewhat increased for those who are doing well and can better afford it. To promote organizing, SAG‐AFTRA also established a payment plan to help cover the new higher initiation fee, and a re‐instatement policy that should encourage those who lost their membership to come back to the fold.
The National Board has also approved a preliminary budget for the union’s first year. While it includes $2.6 million to be paid out of reserves, that deficit represents less than 3% of expenses and a small percentage of the union’s reserves, and was due largely to one‐time-only costs of merging. It may, as well, be partially offset by additional initiation fee revenue, once the Board sets new rates in locals and in specific work areas where post-merger rates have still not been established. Still, we recognize that one of SAG‐AFTRA’s important goals is to build our reserves in advance of negotiations. To this end, we’ll be using every tool at our disposal to make our new union operate as efficiently as possible without sacrificing – and in fact improving – member services. In other words, SAG-AFTRA’s elected leadership and staff are united in their commitment to crafting the type of union you demanded, and the one we all deserve.
We’ve obviously just started, so there’s still a whole lot of work ahead. If we hit bumps on this road, we will address them. We’ll keep you informed when tough decisions need to be made, just as we did before merger, and we hope you’ll share your thoughts and feelings with us as well.
One thing is clear: We are on the way to something extraordinary because we are taking this journey together, united and indivisible. That should fill us all with confidence and hope and tremendous pride.