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AFTRA Sends Deal to Members

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LOS ANGELES The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' national committee on Friday "overwhelmingly" voted in favor of the tentative prime-time/TV agreement reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers last month. The contract now goes to its 70,000 members for ratification.

Earlier in the day, Screen Actors Guild leaders voted to try to torpedo that ratification vote, with its national executive board agreeing by a narrow margin to spend an initial $75,000 on a campaign to encourage dual card members to vote down the tentative AFTRA deal.

The SAG vote was taken during an in-person and video conference meeting with SAG's national executive board. One source put the vote at 13 in favor, 10 opposed.

SAG and AFTRA share 44,000 members, and SAG is looking to those members to vote against the AFTRA contract. Results are expected to be announced on or about July 7.

SAG's vote comes after president Alan Rosenberg and national executive director Doug Allen sent AFTRA a letter Thursday asking it to delay the member ratification vote. AFTRA refused.

"It has become clear over recent days of bargaining that the prospect of an immediate ratification vote on the proposed AFTRA Exhibit A contract is distracting the industry from seriously engaging on SAG's proposals and has the unfortunate prospect of interfering with SAG's ability to exercise its leverage for the benefit of all actors, members of either or both of our unions," the letter stated.

In response, AFTRA president Roberta Reardon and national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth told SAG "in our view, delaying this process would not be in the best interest of our members. Nor do we believe there is anything about AFTRA's ratification process that would 'distract' either SAG or the industry from good faith negotiations or in any way be 'interfering' with the guild's negotiations with the AMPTP."

Sources said AFTRA board members were furious over SAG's letter, calling it "blackmail." They are also angry about their sister actor union's push to get members to vote down the AFTRA contract.

Sources close to SAG said the vote over the fight against AFTRA was divided between the West Coast members who are part of the "Membership First" faction, which received the majority, and East Coast members.

Said one member who attended the meeting: "Basically, it was all the Membership First people rabidly embracing this idea and the others opposing it, as predicted."

Asked about the campaign to sway AFTRA voters, Allen said: "We will be communicating the results of [our] analysis to our membership and will be educating SAG members about the impact of the AFTRA deal on our negotiations and on our effort to secure the best possible contract for actors."

SAG plans to hold a "solidarity rally" on Monday morning at its Wilshire Boulevard headquarters in Los Angeles. Susan Savage, a SAG board member and member of Membership First, has described it as an anti-AFTRA contract rally.