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Actors file suit to block proposed SAG/AFTRA merger

February 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It was a hit in Hollywood, but the plan to merge two high-profile labor unions in the entertainment capital came under attack Wednesday. Some big names in show business want to challenge the merger in court.

Martin Sheen, Ed Asner and Valerie Harper are among the actors supporting this lawsuit, trying to stop a proposed merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the two biggest acting unions in Hollywood. They're expressing their frustrations on YouTube.

"I beg you: Don't destroy this union as it now exists. It has been stabbed in the back," said Asner, a former president of SAG.

"Due diligence has not been done by either side," said Sheen.

Actor Scott Wilson says there hasn't been a comprehensive enough study done into how the merger would affect members' health and pension benefits.

"So why not do that now before you ask us to sign away and do potential harm to our pension and health plans?" said Wilson.

On their websites, both SAG and AFTRA link to a 36-page report explaining the benefits.

"From our point of view, members are getting the information that they need to make an informed decision, and resorting to litigation is really a tactic for somebody who doesn't think they can persuade the members that their position is the right one," said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, deputy national executive director and general counsel of the Screen Actors Guild.

Actors including George Clooney, Betty White and members of the cast of "Modern Family" support the merger.

"If you are the only game in town, if you are the only source of actors, you're going to be stronger when you go to the table," said actress Jenny O'Hara, who supports the merger.

SAG and AFTRA board members overwhelmingly approved the idea of a merger, but the members themselves are expected to get their ballots on Monday. The lawsuit is not expected to stop that from happening.

Full disclosure, to work as a TV news reporter or anchor in Los Angeles, you are required to be a member of AFTRA.

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