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Nichelle Nichols, Malachi Throne Sue To Stop SAG-AFTRA Merger

Claim combination could hurt health and retirement benefits for actors

A group of actors are banding together to stop two of Hollywood’s largest actors unions from merging, and among them are a couple of people famous for their Star Trek work.

Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura in the original “Star Trek” series as well as six subsequent movies, along with Malachi Throne — who played Comm. Jose Mendez in the classic “Star Trek” episode “The Menagerie” — are part of a group of more than 40 actors who oppose the merger between the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The merger was announced last month as a way to combine SAG’s 140,000 members and AFTRA’s 80,000 members, especially since many of those people maintain dual membership in both guilds. When it was announced, SAG national president Ken Howard and AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon said it was gratifying to come to such an end after a year of negotiations.

“We are confident our members will agree that we have created something we can all be proud of — actors, singers, broadcasters, dancers, voiceover artists, background actors, stunt persons and all entertainment and media professionals that will be represented by this new union,” they said at the time in a joint statement. “The consensus process allowed our [negotiating committee members to fully discuss, debate and reach agreement on critical provisions that form a strong foundation for a single union that will protect and strengthen the future for all our members.”

But the actors, who also include Ed Harris and Martin Sheen, say that the leadership of both unions have not done due diligence, and that such a merger could reduce health and pension benefits for its members (see Inside Blip’s breakdown of those issues based on a 2003 report here).

They are demanding a judge stop the merger vote, force the two sides to fully investigate the results of a merger and how it will affect the members, and then fully disclose that to all members before such a vote would resume.

SAG, however, has called the lawsuit meritless, according to

“Any suggestion that the members have not been fully and fairly informed is preposterous,” SAG said in a statement. “We have scheduled more than 50 informational meetings across the country, have posted all 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.”

The suit, however, says SAG is asking members to “take a blindfolded high dive without knowing whether there is any water in the pool.”

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