AFTRA Overhauls

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Cutbacks, staff cuts, reduction in benefits, consolidation -- better call the union. Check that, it is the union.

On the recommendation of a special select committee, the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists has voted to overhaul its organizational structure to save money and centralize control. "We no longer have the luxury of time to strengthen our union’s finances.  The Board has wisely and courageously recognized that there were no easy options and no quick fixes," said AFTRA President John Connolly.

The key changes, approved by the national board at a special meeting in New York Saturday, would:

Recommend moving the national headquarters from Manhattan to Los Angeles.

Give the national executive director (Greg Hessinger at the moment) authority over all local as well as national staffs. Previously, the locals were accountable only to local boards.

Cut the national board from 113 to 75 members, cut the board meetings from four to three

Close the San Diego local office and one of two Texas offices.

Raise union dues by adding a cost-of-living increase.

Cut delegate convention expenses and staff benefits with the hope of eventually increasing them again.

AFTRA represents approximately 80,000 workers in the news and entertainment fields in TV and radio.

AFTRA tried another form of consolidation a year ago. It tried unsuccessfully to merge with the L.A.-based Screen Actors guild last year at about this time, going so far as to have reached an agreement between the boards and even a new name, the Alliance of International Media Artists (AIMA). The rank and file of SAG voted the move down, however.

The merger had been pitched in part as a consolidation to match the further consolidation of the industry -- increasing negotiating power to match the studios' increasing power -- but there had been some member concerns about the logistics of merging pension and health plans.

"It's expensive," said then NPR Morning Edition host and AFTRA VP Bob Edwards after last year's failed vote to merge. "Meetings, campaigns … they drain our resources. This was nine months of work."

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