Published: February 22, 2012 @ 10:51 amBy The Wraphttp://www.thewrap.com/media/article/sag-merger-opponents-file-suit-prevent-vote-35627
By Brent Lang & Joshua L. Weinstein
Opponents of the Screen Actors Guild’s proposed merger with the American Federation of Television & Radio Actors filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the union from asking its members to vote on the plan.
The suit alleges that the SAG board of directors has breached its fiduciary duties by failing to conduct a study detailing the effects of the proposed merger on SAG membership pension and health benefits.
Among the 68 SAG members listed as plaintiffs are Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Diane Ladd, Edward Asner, and Nancy Sinatra.
Asner and fellow co-plaintiff Alan Rosenberg both served as presidents of the guild.
“We have spent almost two months negotiating with SAG in an effort to get them to present the truth regarding this merger plan. Member are entitled to full disclosure, not half truths and misleading and unsupported promises” David B. Casselman, an attorney for the opponents, said in a statement.
Also read: SAG Merger Opponents Weigh Legal Action
The suit was filed in federal court in Los Angeles.
A spokeswoman for SAG did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Before the suit was filed, SAG and AFTRA were scheduled to send merger referendum ballots to members on Feb. 27. Ballots were scheduled to be returned by March 30.
Opponents of the plan to join the two unions allege that SAG has been dishonest about the reduction in benefits that will occur if it merges with AFTRA.
Proponents of the plan argue that the merged union will have more bargaining leverage with studios and other employers — a key factor in hammering out future agreements and ensuring richer pacts for its membership.
The opponents also are suing SAG officers Ken Howard, Amy Aquino, Ned Vaughn, Mike Hodge and David Hartley-Margolin. Howard is SAG’s president, Aquino is its secretary-treasurer, Vaughn is 1st vice president, Hodge is 2nd vice president and Hartley-Margolin is its 3rd vice president.
The lawsuit says that the merger “is being presented in a deceptive manner, without due diligence, as if it is in the best interest of each and every member. Defendants know the truth and are refusing, even upon request, to provide neutral, balance (sic) factual disclosures, required them.”
It says the union officers “have ignored their obligations … promoting a merger while obfuscating the truth.”
The lawsuit raises a number of concerns.
It claims that “a merger such as the one being pressed upon the members could result in potentially life-altering impacts to the existing pension and health plans. Such impacts would be harmful to each and every SAG plan member.”
And it says that the merger would impose an entire slate of new joint union board members and officers, while prohibiting opposing candidates from running.
“By the time negative consequences are realized, they will be irreversible. The harmful impact of such actions will produce numerous, substantial and justified liability claims,” the suit reads.
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
By NIKKI FINKE | Wednesday February 22, 2012 @ 11:04am PSTTags: SAG AFTRA Merger, Screen Actors Guild lawsuit
BREAKING… EXCLUSIVE: (Click here for .pdf of lawsuit) A number of Screen Actors Guild members filed a lawsuit today asking the court for a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop SAG from calling for a vote on the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger. The suit claims that the SAG 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. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
The members filing suit are: Martin Sheen, Edward Asner, Ed Harris, Valerie Harper, Clancy Brown, James Remar, George Coe, Diane Ladd, Lainie Kazan, Nichelle Nichols, Renee Aubry, Jane Austin, Erick Avari, Steve Barr, Sara Barrett, Terrance Beasor, Michael Bell, Warren Berlinger, Joe Bologna, Ralph Brennen, Alexandra Castro, Jude Ciccolella, Cynthia Lea Clark, David Clennon, Joe D’Angerio, Patricia D’Arbanville, Dick Gautier, Dorothy Goulah, Marty Grey, Sumi Haru, Angel Harper, Basil Hoffman, David Huddleston, Anne-Marie Johnson, David Jolliffe, Kerrie Keane, Peter Kwong, Kurt Lott, Barbara Luna, Eric Lutes, Stephen Mach, Michael McConnohie, Peter Antico, Susan McNabb, Phyllis Timbes, Marguerite Moreau, Traci Murray, Nicole Mandich, Larry Newman, Barbara Niven, Kathleen Nolan, Jack Ong, Peggy Lane O’Rourke, Leslie Parrish, Scott Pierce, Robin Riker, Stephanie Rose, Alan Rosenberg, Alan Ruck, Wendy Schaal, Tascha Schaal, Nancy Sinatra, Cynthia Steele, Renee Taylor, Malachi Throne, Beverly Todd, Jessica Wright, Momo Yashimo.
They are suing the Screen Actors Guild, SAG Executive Director David White, SAG President Ken Howard, Amy Aquino, Ned Vaughn, Mike Hodge, David Hartley-Margolin and others.
“We have spent almost two months negotiating with SAG in an effort to get them to present the truth regarding this merger plan. Member are entitled to full disclosure, not half truths and misleading and unsupported promises” the plaintiffs’ attorney David B. Casselman of the Los Angeles law firm Wasserman, Comden, Casselman & Esensten, LLP said in a statement today.
“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.”
Since Sept. 15, 1981, the SAG Constitution has recognized that careful study of any SAG-AFTRA merger plan would be necessary “to satisfy the requirements of law and the protection of all eligible members against the loss of benefits, presently or in the future (Appendix 1).
The SAG board voted on Jan. 28, 2012 to approve the proposed merger plan and to submit it to a vote of the membership. On Jan. 29, 2012, 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,” says 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,” says Casselman.