It’s not even August. And SAG is still in the middle of its contract negotiations with Big Media. But already actors are coming forward to run for office in the September 18th election. (Then again, there’s never a SAG vote without controversy.) But no, it’s not too early. Because the nominating period closes tomorrow! Then SAG releases the official list of candidates on August 5th once the Election Committees have confirmed candidate eligibility. So today I received a statement from 31 SAG members billing themselves as “Hollywood stars” (in the subject line of the email they sent out) who say they’re “alarmed by growing divisiveness” within their guild and declared themselves SAG Board candidates seeking leadership change on a “Unite For Strength” slate. (Many, if not all, were on board for the “Affected Member” attempt to limit SAG contract voting to just “working” actors which SAG’s current board sent back to committee.) Here’s the “Unite For Strength” statement:
Aiming to put the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) on a path toward greater unity with sister union the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), a group of 31 actors announced today that they will run in upcoming elections for seats on the SAG Board of Directors. Organized under the banner “Unite for Strength,” the group is seeking to win a majority of the national board seats allotted to Hollywood branch members. If successful, Unite for Strength would end control of the board by the “Membership First” faction, which has long maintained a hostile stance toward AFTRA.
“With the immense challenges actors face today, we need all the strength we can muster. And that means electing union leadership that is committed to uniting actors to fight for our common future,” said Ned Vaughn, a leader of the group. “We can no longer afford leaders who sow division.”
“As our current predicament makes clear, actors lose out when we face off as separate, warring camps against the media conglomerates in contract negotiations,” said Adam Arkin. “I’m concerned for future negotiations if we don’t change the leadership that has brought us to this point.”
In announcing their campaign, Unite for Strength faulted current and past board members associated with Membership First for stoking the debilitating hostility between SAG and AFTRA by:
· Threatening to terminate joint negation of the TV/Theatrical contract. (They later rescinded a planned referendum after a storm of internal criticism that doing so would weaken SAG at the bargaining table.)
· Waging a campaign of threats and insults against AFTRA. This included one Membership First-affiliated board member calling AFTRA “a scumbag union.”
· Waging a senseless, futile (and costly) campaign to defeat the contract AFTRA negotiated with the AMPTP.
· Scuttling two separate attempts (1998 & 2003) to strengthen actors’ long-term position at the bargaining table by merging SAG and AFTRA.
“If we’re elected, we’ll end the senseless war against AFTRA and work to create a united front of actors to fight for more working opportunities and better jobs. We believe that will ultimately require merging the two unions, and that’s a goal we’re all pledged to pursue,” said Vaughn.
The candidates running on the Unite for Strength slate are:
L. Scott Caldwell
John Carroll Lynch
Richard Speight, Jr.