Over 60 Screen Actors Guild members filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking the court for an injunction to stop SAG from calling for a vote on the proposed merger of SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Actors. The suit alleges that SAG’s board has breached its fiduciary duties to conduct an actuarial impact study detailing the effects of the proposed merger on SAG membership pension and health benefits.
“We have spent almost two months negotiating with SAG in an effort to get them to present the truth regarding this merger plan. Members are entitled to full disclosure, not half truths and misleading and unsupported promises,” said David B. Casselman of the Los Angeles law firm Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten. “They have done nothing of substance to support their claims that the proposed merger will protect SAG member benefits. The average SAG member makes less than $10,000 per year. They need to know that all necessary due diligence was done to protect them.”
The SAG board voted on Jan. 28 to approve the proposed merger plan and to submit it to a vote of the membership. (Click here for more). On Jan. 29, the presidents of SAG and AFTRA announced on national television at the SAG awards that the “historic step” of merger was about to be realized.
“We believe the defendants made this announcement in order to thoroughly saturate the media with pro-merger propaganda, avoiding any balancing information which would allow SAG members to intelligently evaluate the issues prior to voting,” said Casselman. “If an uninformed membership approves this merger, and then we all learn that it will have crippling, negative effects, it will be too late for anything to be done to return SAG or its current pension and health plans back to their current status.”
Plaintiffs in the suit include over 60 well-known actors and actresses including Martin Sheen, Edward Asner, Ed Harris and former SAG president Alan Rosenberg. SAG responded by issuing a statement, vowing to “vigorously defend all claims in court.”
“Any suggestion that the members have not been fully and fairly informed is preposterous. We have scheduled more than 50 informational meetings across the country, have posted all of the merger documents on the website for over four weeks, and we have afforded the merger opponents the right to send an opposition statement at the unions’ expense as part of the referendum package.
“This lawsuit is a clear attempt at circumventing the will of the membership. It is disappointing that this group seems dedicated to preventing their fellow members from exercising their democratic right to vote on their futures through the union’s fair and established referendum process, which is already underway. This filing is simply a public relations stunt that follows a clear pattern by some of the plaintiffs of filing unsuccessful lawsuits against their own union. We do not believe that the members will be fooled.”