Re-Elected SAG Prez Ken Howard on a Mission for Merger

The membership of the Screen Actors Guild sent a clear message in support of a merger with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, in election results announced yesterday. As expected, incumbent president Ken Howard was re-elected for a second term, and Amy Aquino re-upped as secretary-treasurer after running unopposed. Their two-year terms begin on Sunday, and both are decidedly pro-merger.

“There’s nothing more important than members exercising their right to vote, and I’m very grateful for their continued support,” said Howard. “With so many pro-merger candidates elected again this year, there’s no doubt what members want, and I look forward to presenting a comprehensive plan to the SAG and AFTRA national boards in January.”

That plan is expected to fly at the national board meetings, with an up-or-down vote for a SAG-AFTRA merger potentially out to membership of both unions early next year. In fact, if all goes to plan, Howard told the Hollywood Reporter, he hopes to announce the referendum ballot at the SAG Awards on January 29, 2012. He estimates votes would be tallied by late March or early April; at that point, if both memberships approve with 60% or more of the vote, leadership would move forward on an action plan.

Indeed, Howard’s reelection was such a landslide, it seemed almost a mandate for him to continue on his merger mission – almost a de facto referendum on the matter. Of 23,459 votes tabulated yesterday, Howard received 17,492 – over three times the number of all his opponents combined.

Combining as one union has been the long-term plan of the two performers’ organizations for decades, but making it happen has been another story. The last merger attempt was mounted in 2003, and fell just short of the 60% majority needed to pass in a heated referendum vote.

“Two years ago, SAG members definitively set the Guild on the road to merger, and this election confirms they want it more than ever,” Aquino said. “I’ll continue working to strengthen SAG’s operations and finances, and I’m honored to be able to help my fellow performers achieve the crucial goal of creating one union.”

SAG also announced election results for the national board of directors. Approximately one third of the 69 national board seats were open for election this year, representing SAG’s Hollywood, New York and Regional Branch divisions.

SAG’s Hollywood Division elected 12 national board members; the New York Division elected five; and seven national board members were elected from the union’s branches in Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Houston, Nashville, Nevada and Washington-Baltimore.

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