Stuntwoman Jane Austin made it 2-f0r-2 in upset victories, winning the presidency of SAG-AFTRA’s LA local.In a squeaker, the Membership First candidate beat Unite for Strength incumbent Clyde Kusatsu by 105 votes. Austin’s victory, coupled with her surprise election Thursday as the new national Secretary-Treasurer – SAG-AFTRA’s third-highest elected officer – makes her the union’s overnight sensation, one that’s been 12 years in the making.
In the LA race, Austin received 5,651 votes to Kusatsu’s 5,546, beating him 50.47% to 49.53%. Despite the loss by her running mate, Patricia Richardson, in her race to unseat Ken Howard as the union’s national president, it’s a major victory for the Membership First slate, which also saw board member Esai Morales — who lost to Howard two years ago — become the LA local’s new 1st VP. Ellen Crawford, who was running on Howard’s ticket, was elected 2nd VP.
Austin has served 12 years on SAG-AFTRA’s board and the boards of its predecessor unions. She has also chaired the Stunt Committee and served on the National Executive, Communications and Disciplinary Review committees.
It’s a major victory for the Richardson-led Membership First faction. During the campaign, Austin told the members that “fixing the split earnings problem and merging the SAG & AFTRA Pension & Health Plans is my number one priority. As your Los Angeles President, I will actively pursue us owning our Los Angeles offices, rather than renting as we currently do. I will also immediately work on finding ways to reestablish our Stunt, Singers, Background and Broadcaster Departments. I am committed to finding solutions. I want us to be the strongest we can possibly be.”
In a sign that the LA local is still deeply divided between the two factions, Howard was the top vote-getter in the races for 19 seats on the national board, followed by Richardson and Membership First candidates Ed Asner, Diane Ladd and Frances Fisher. Other MF candidates elected to the national board include David Joliffe, Jodi Long, Debbie Evans and Robin Riker.
Other Unite for Strength candidates elected to the national board include Gabrielle Carteris, Woody Schultz, Ellen Crawford, Lisa Vidal, Vivicca Whitsett, Autumn Reeser, Jon Huertas, Elizabeth McLaughlin and Stacey Travis.
In another surprise, Amy Aquino, the union’s second-ranking national officer, who bolted UFS and ran as an independent, was defeated in her bid to be reelected to the national board.
Clearly the local’s members have spoken: they want both groups on the board and in leadership positions, and they want them to get along and get things done.