Showbizreporting's Blog

September 25, 2009

SAG Election Results are in!

SAG elects Ken Howard president
Amy Aquino chosen as secretary-treasurer
By Jay A. Fernandez

Sept 24, 2009, 10:24 PM ET

Updated: Sept 24, 2009, 11:10 PM ET
There are surely more conflicts to come, but the Screen Actors Guild membership on Thursday night settled a big one: Ken Howard has been elected the union’s new national president.

Running mate Amy Aquino beat two-time incumbent Connie Stevens in the race for secretary-treasurer. Howard and Aquino will serve two-year terms beginning Friday.

For the moment, at least, the outcomes indicate that a winning 47.2% of the voting segment of SAG’s roughly 120,000 members prefers the less strident approach of the self-styled moderate wing of the party represented by Unite for Strength.

Howard collected 12,895 votes, or 3,989 more than MembershipFirst candidate Anne-Marie Johnson, who received 32.6% of the 27,295 votes cast. Independents Seymour Cassel and Asmar Muhammad garnered 17.7% and 1.5%, respectively, in their bid for the presidency.

UFS came together last year in opposition and in January led a boardroom coup at SAG, installed new negotiators and salvaged a deal with Hollywood producers nearly a year after sister union AFTRA had ratified its own contract. Johnson is part of a separate coalition, Membership First, that was shunted to the board’s minority and saw its leader, president Alan Rosenberg, muzzled on most official guild business.

Howard, who picked up an acting Emmy on Sunday for his role in HBO’s “Grey Gardens,” campaigned on bringing a more collaborative approach to relationships with AFTRA, the DGA and WGA. Segments of those groups were alienated by the often-heated rhetoric of Rosenberg and 1st national vp Johnson.

“I campaigned on the promise that I’d do everything in my power to strengthen our position at the bargaining table by building a greater unity with AFTRA and the other entertainment unions, and that’s exactly what I intend to do,” Howard said. “Despite the sharp differences that those of us active in guild affairs sometimes have over strategy and tactics, we need to continually remind ourselves that we’re all on the same team, fighting for the same thing — and by pulling together, we’ll only grow stronger.”

UFS expanded the narrow majority it established on the 71-member national board in the September 2008 elections. The next Hollywood board meeting with newly seated members is scheduled for Oct. 5.

In concert with the national result, Mike Hodge was elected president of SAG’s New York branch, succeeding Sam Freed, who passed the moderate baton to his fellow United Screen Actors Nationwide member.

Hodge defeated Mitchell Green, a SAGNOW partisan affiliated with the more hard-line MembershipFirst faction. USAN, which is affiliated with UFS, has dominated SAG politics in New York in the recent past.

The results seem to reflect an industrywide fatigue resulting from the 2007-08 writers strike and the protracted SAG contract negotiations that ended in June. Last week, the WGA elected John Wells to the top slot over the more hard-line Writers United candidate Elias Davis. The rest of the WGA officers, however, were split with Writers United.

Among the immediate challenges facing Howard are retention of coverage of network pilots and the next round of negotiations for a new TV-theatrical contract. As part of the last deal, SAG agreed to start seven weeks of bargaining with the AMPTP as early as October 2010.

Additionally, the shifting economic and labor landscape has resulted in a looming decrease in benefits and increase in premiums beginning in January as a result of investment losses and decreased employer contributions. The damaged pension and health benefits situation became a political hot potato during the campaign.

Mending fences with sister unions DGA, WGA and AFTRA is a high priority for Howard as well. AFTRA members re-elected Roberta Reardon to the presidency in early August. As a UFS candidate, Howard preached the benefit of a collective approach with AFTRA and its roughly 70,000 members in negotiations with the studios and networks, an approach that was abandoned by the previous SAG regime.

The presence of Cassel in the election surely cost Johnson some votes, since he also remains a stalwart MembershipFirst partisan. Cassel narrowly lost to Rosenberg in the 2007 election, but he was dinged by an internal sexual harassment case against him that became public during this most recent campaign.

The National Board members elected Thursday will assume office Friday for terms of three years.

SAG’s Hollywood Division elected 11 National Board members; the New York division elected four National Board members; and seven National Board members were elected from the union’s branches in Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Philadelphia, Portland and San Diego.

National Board members elected from the Hollywood Division in addition to Sheen, Harris, Johnson, Stevens and Ladd were Elliott Gould, Ed Asner, Dule Hill, Hill Harper, Nancy Travis and Marcia Wallace (all three-year terms).

The following were elected to serve as National Board alternates and to the Hollywood division board (all one-year terms): Rosenberg, Gabrielle Carteris, Jenny O’Hara, Michael O’Keefe, Clyde Kusatsu, Dawnn Lewis, Doug Savant, Michelle Allsopp, D.W. Moffett, Joe Bologna, Robert Hays, Jason George, L. Scott Caldwell, Clark Gregg, Patrick Fabian, Bill Smitrovich, Ellen Crawford, Stacey Travis, Mandy Steckelberg, Renee Taylor, Bernie Casey and John Carroll Lynch.

National Board members elected from the New York division: Freed, Sharon Washington, Monica Trombetta and Liz Zazzi (all three-year terms).

The following were elected to serve as national board alternates and to the New York division board of directors (all one-year terms): Manny Alfaro, Sheila Head, Marc Baron, Joe Narciso, Jay Potter, Dave Bachman, John Rothman, Kevin Scullin and Justin Barrett.

National Board members elected from the Regional Branch division, all with three-year terms: John Carter Brown (Chicago), David Hartley-Margolin (Colorado), Dave Corey (Florida), Scott Rogers (Hawaii), Helen McNutt (Philadelphia), Mary McDonald-Lewis (Portland) and Don Ahles (San Diego).

Ballots for all eligible SAG members in Hollywood and New York were mailed on Aug. 25.

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August 3, 2009

Campaign funds

Dear New York Member,

We are writing on behalf of United Screen Actors Nationwide – USAN. Since 2000, USAN has asked for your support and your votes, and you have given us both. Another SAG election is upon us. This election will determine the future of the Guild for years to come and that decision will have a direct effect on all of our livelihoods.

This year in New York, we once again face opposition from Alan Rosenberg and Anne Marie Johnson’s MembershipFirst faction in Hollywood and their surrogates in NY, running under the Trojan Horse heading of “SAGNOW“. If they regain their National Board majority, we will see more of our dues money spent on fighting AFTRA and their contracts, more “go it alone” negotiations, and the very likely re-hiring of Doug Allen as National Executive Director. Doug Allen and MembershipFirst failed to successfully negotiate even one of the eight contracts that were due in 2008, while spending over a million dollars of our dues money to try to convince us that they were doing a great job. Fortunately, we New Yorkers are not that gullible.

In the last year, the members of the NY Board, along with our allies in the Regional Branches, and our newly elected compatriots in Hollywood, took the steps necessary to oust Doug Allen. Allen’s and MembershipFirst’s, failed “destroy AFTRA” strategy led to the loss of many tens of millions of dollars in earnings under the Theatrical & TV Contract when those negotiations were dragged out for close to a year, and millions more lost under the Commercial Contract — which had to be extended for six months because of the prolonged Theatrical and TV negotiations. Add to those losses the damage done to our Pension and Health Fund.

The NY Board and our allies then fought to install a thoughtful and strategic national executive director (David White) and to successfully close both the Theatrical & TV and Commercial Contract negotiations and have them ratified by overwhelming numbers. We were also instrumental in closing the long-delayed Basic Cable Agreement and are currently working on negotiating new TV and Cable Animation contracts. This has all been accomplished since February.

USAN needs not only your votes, we need your contributions to run a campaign that will ensure that we can continue the progress we have made this year. The MembershipFirst/SAGNOW slate is very well funded. We need to be too.

If you believe, as we do, that the best hope for the future of professional performers in NY and across this country lies in eliminating the insanity of multiple unions representing us for the same work, and that the most reasonable way to accomplish that is by working to merge our unions, rather than driving them apart, then please consider contributing your money and your time to this campaign, so that we can continue to take the steps to get us there. We welcome any help you can give us.

The candidates that USAN are asking you to support include National Officer candidates:

Ken Howard – President
Amy Aquino – Secretary/Treasurer

And this year’s NY Nominating Committee candidates, who represent a diverse cross-section of the NY membership and work experience are:

New York Division President:
Mike Hodge

For the New York Board:
Liz Zazzi, Manny Alfaro, Dave Bachman, Marc Baron,
Justin Barrett, Sam Freed, Sheila Head, Joe Narciso,
Jay Potter, John Rothman, Kevin Scullin,
Monica Trombetta, and Sharon Washington

You can make contributions by credit card or PayPal through our website (personal credit card only – no corporate cards). If you wish to send a check please message us for instructions.

Please help any way you can. And please forward this to your friends who may be affected. All of our livelihoods are at stake.

Thanks in advance for your help,

Sam Freed,
Current NY Division President – NY Board Candidate

Mike Hodge,
Current NY Division Vice-President – NY Division Presidential Candidate

June 10, 2009

SAG Ratify TV/Theatrical Agreements

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Screen Actors Guild Members Overwhelmingly Ratify TV/Theatrical Agreements


Los Angeles, (June 9, 2009)Screen Actors Guild announced today that members have voted overwhelmingly to approve its TV/Theatrical contracts by a vote of 78 percent to 22 percent.
 
The two-year successor agreement covers film and digital television programs, motion pictures and new media productions. The pact becomes effective at 12:01 a.m. June 10, 2009 and expires June 30, 2011.
 
The contracts provide more than $105 million in wages, increased pension contributions, and other gains and establishes a template for SAG coverage of new media formats.
 
Approximately 110,000 SAG members received ballots of which 35.26 percent returned them – a return that is above average compared with typical referenda on Screen Actors Guild contracts. Integrity Voting Systems of Everett, WA, provided election services and tonight certified the final vote tally upon completion of the tabulation.
 
The vote count in the Hollywood Division was 70.70 percent to 29.30 percent in favor. In the New York Division, the vote count was 85.74 percent to 14.26 percent in favor. And in the Regional Branch Division, the vote count was 89.06 percent to 10.94 percent in favor.
 
Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg said, “The membership has spoken and has decided to work under the terms of this contract that many of us, who have been involved in these negotiations from the beginning, believe to be devastatingly unsatisfactory. Tomorrow morning I will be contacting the elected leadership of the other talent unions with the hope of beginning a series of pre-negotiation summit meetings in preparation for 2011. I call upon all SAG members to begin to ready themselves for the battle ahead,” Rosenberg added.
 
Screen Actors Guild Interim National Executive Director David White said, “This decisive vote gets our members back to work with immediate pay raises and puts SAG in a strong position for the future. Preparation for the next round of negotiations begins now. Our members can expect more positive changes in the coming months as we organize new work opportunities, repair and reinvigorate our relationships with our sister unions and industry partners, and continue to improve the Guild’s operations.”
 
Screen Actors Guild Chief Negotiator John McGuire said, “I want to thank the SAG members and staff who dedicated their time to the negotiations process. We emerged with a solid deal that the members have now voted up. The negotiating team worked tirelessly, building on the work of the first negotiating committee, to deliver these improvements to members.”
 
Screen Actors Guild began talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on April 15, 2008.  Guild Chief Negotiator John McGuire, Interim National Executive Director David White, and Deputy National Executive Director for Contracts Ray Rodriguez, working with a 10-person negotiating task force comprised of Screen Actors Guild board members and officers representing the three divisions, reached the tentative agreement on April 16, 2009 after 12 months of periodic negotiations with the motion picture studios and television networks.
 
For further information on the new contract, including the full text and a summary of the agreement, click here <http://www.sag.org/tvtheatrical-negotiations> .  

ACTORS RESPOND TO CONTRACT RATIFICATION

Tony Shalhoub, actor
“This is a great decision for SAG and I’m so appreciative of everything the new leadership is doing to put the Guild back on track. They’ve obviously got the right ideas for making SAG stronger.”

Stephen Collins, actor
“This contract passed because members knew it was time to take advantage of the gains our negotiators won and get back to work. On top of that, they understood that risking our ability to negotiate alongside AFTRA and the other unions in the 2011 negotiations would have been a huge mistake.  It’s a great day for SAG.”

Sam Freed, actor, 2nd National Vice President
“This decision by the membership marks the end of a very long process.  We can now move forward with a new sense of certainty.”

Sue-Anne Morrow, actor, National Board Member representing New York
“This is a good deal with good gains. SAG’s members clearly agree. It’s about time we got a raise. I’m so pleased that SAG’s members exercised their right to be heard and said ‘Yes!’.”

Mike Hodge, actor, National Board Member representing New York
“I am extremely pleased that we have finally come to the close of a long, unproductive period. I am hopeful that we can heal our wounds and really start the work to become a unified, national union.”

Nancy Duerr, actor, National Board Member representing SAG Florida Branch
“This is a victory for SAG performers across our region. Stalled and delayed productions can now get underway, boosting our local economies. This contract not only puts more money in members’ pockets, it preserves the high standards of working conditions our members have come to expect.”

Todd Hissong, actor, Chicago Branch President, National Board Member
“By passing this referendum, Chicago members have sent a clear message that we want to get back to work. Screen Actors Guild members across the country have yet again demonstrated our grasp of the issues, the importance of unionism, and our need to stand together with our sister unions to make deals that benefit us all.”

David Hartley-Margolin, Colorado actor, SAG 3rd Vice President
“The membership always has the last word when it comes to contract matters. They have spoken. Their endorsement of the deal with the AMPTP ends the uncertainty that has been hovering over us and allows Screen Actors Guild and the industry to move forward together.”

June 3, 2009

SAG Town Hall Meeting

Report on SAG NY Town Hall Meeting  (June 2,  2009)

 

SAG held a town hall meeting in NY last night to provide information re the TV/theatrical contract. It comes a bit late in the process, since the ballots are due back in the mail by next Tuesday, June 9. That means that the last day to reliably mail the ballots is probably Friday, or even Thursday, depending on your faith in the USPS and its vagaries. It also means that we have probably seen the end of the multitude of pro and con videos deployed on the SAG website, Membership First website, and YouTube.

Variety reports the turnout was slim—about 100 actors. SAGWatch infers, accurately I think, that most people have already voted and would have little reason to attend an informational meeting at this point.

The Variety report notes that attendees included SAG interim NED David White, President Alan Rosenberg, MF-ers 1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson and Scott Wilson, while supporters of the deal included Dan Lauria, Dylan Baker, SAG 2nd VP Sam Freed and board members Ralph Byers, Paul Christie, Rebecca Damon, Mike Hodge and Kevin Scullin.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells me that the MF folks (perhaps 15-20 people) were rowdy, booing people and apparently having their cell phones call en masse to disrupt the meeting.

However, the most interesting thing the source told me is that after the meeting the source spoke individually with Alan Rosenberg and asked whether he would attempt to have SAG reimburse him for his legal fees incurred in the lawsuit he, Johnson, Diane Ladd and Kent McCord files against SAG itself, a suit that has received denials in both the trial and appellate courts but nonetheless continues at both levels.

What’s interesting Rosenberg’s response, as reported by the source: “I don’t have any legal fees. It’s pro bono.” This is a problem—if true, it would explain in part why Rosenberg and his co-plaintiffs continue the futile and disruptive suit against SAG, which is burning up the union’s money at a that the guild has ben left with a $6 million deficit by MF. It’s also a small benefit, in that the plaintiffs will have no legal fees to extract from SAG if they were to recover control of the national board.

I emailed Rosenberg requesting comment on the source’s report and his assistant replied that his response was as follows: “This is a private matter and I don’t want to speak about it publicly”. “I have no further comment”.

 

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