I was giddy as a schoolgirl to learn that SAG and AFTRA had finally merged, after decades of struggle, in-fighting, and discord. In fact, I couldn’t wait to log in to hear the streaming announcement by Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon this past week. It shouldn’t have mattered so much, I told myself. After all, there was dissent, the agreement was not amenable to all members, the contract imperfect, etc. And I am a member of both unions, so it wasn’t like it was for me when I started acting -- when a fledgling AFTRA member held onto hope that he or she would automatically become a SAG member if the unions joined. At this stage in the game, it isn’t about that for me. Of course, I have no idea how successfully things will run from here on in, but I do know that merged, the now dovetailed unions’ bargaining power is amplified, and that’s sufficient reason to begin.
What I’m thrilled about is simply that, with so much bureaucratic bludgeoning happening these days by congress, and the world in such disarray, that the parties involved were actually able to work together for the common good. It reminds me of how long it took for women to get the right to vote in this country, and sadly how the the current, arduous battle of the day -- the need for quality healthcare for all -- has taken its place on the battleground.
I still wonder why I am so moved by the merger. Perhaps it has to do with what I remember James Lipton asking Billy Joel once on an episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” During the famed Pivot questionnaire, Lipton asked what “turned him on” in life. Joel’s answer was simply, “competence.” I think that pretty much sums up how I feel about the coming together of SAG - AFTRA, and this moment in time. For me, it’s about history, hard work, and competence realized. For many reasons, it makes me want to stand and cheer.