Clancy Brown — member of SAG Hollywood Division Board of Directors, 4th National Board alternate, five national contract negotiation teams, and multiple committees — sends me this open letter:

Dear Friends and Fellow SAG Members,

First, I respect the decision of anyone to run for this office. Occupying the office of president effectively is strenuous, time-consuming, complex, and hyperactive. It’s a couple of orders of magnitude of personal commitment beyond that asked of National Board Members and even further beyond that of a divisional board member or an actively involved member. It’s no picnic.

That being said, the choice this election is as clear as it can be.

Anne-Marie Johnson would be without question the most qualified, skilled, and well-prepared SAG President of our lifetime, if not in the history of the union. She has the presence, knowledge, and experience that cannot be acquired quickly or cheaply; nor be diminished by the derogatory stridency of blog posts.

Her connections within the industry, in Sacramento, and Washington DC are real, well developed, and powerful. Her command of SAG governance, internal processes, and contracts is prodigious. She is an actress of dignity, talent, and beauty; a labor leader of principle, character, courage, and determination; and will be an historic SAG President of eloquence, inspiration, backbone, and fairness.

Anne-Marie gets things done. She has since she began her service to the union 12 years ago. Nothing intimidates her. No one controls her. No one speaks for her. Her commitment to the welfare of EVERY member is the laser that focuses her unflagging energy and commitment.

Some people, some even within her own circle, have a problem with her clarity, command, and certainty but I don’t. When women find themselves in authority with responsibility for maintaining order and driving groups to take action in any circumstance, they are never afforded the same respectful deference that men are. Men are strong that won’t suffer fools. Women are bitchy that won’t suffer fools. Every woman knows this to be true. In spite of that general bias and perhaps even because of it, there is no one in the SAG, not one single person, that can run a meeting more fairly, efficiently, or civilly.

I harbor no ill will toward Ken Howard. He seems like a nice guy but I know nothing about him. After serving with him for a year, I still have no real impression of him one way or another. I can’t recall a single thing he might have said or a single motion he may have made to reach consensus or challenge it. I can’t recall a debate or exchange in which he may have participated. He’s not alone in that anonymity. Many M1st and UFS board members keep their own counsel. It’s no big deal. Like attendance. Ken, like many National Board Members, has not always managed to be available for board meetings. That’s not a problem because the system is designed to tolerate just that circumstance. There have been 9 national meetings this past year. 9 national meetings to discuss matters that fundamentally impact the lives of actors. Ken managed to attend 3. Three times out of nine he was able to participate. Is that good enough? To be fair, Anne-Marie only made it to all 9. That’s nine times out of nine she managed to fulfill the responsibility entrusted to her – but we expect nothing less from her. Is it really fair to expect Ken or anyone to be a competent president after only a year of service to SAG and missing the majority of SAG national meetings? He’s a good actor with a long resume over many decades. Ken seems like a nice, avuncular sort of guy, but president of a union? President of SAG? Anne-Marie shows up every single time. Is it too much to expect Ken to show up? Maybe, if he becomes president, he’ll start. Maybe then he will be inclined to participate fully. Maybe. Maybe not.

Ken can’t even approach Anne-Marie Johnson in experience, dedication, knowledge, or really any of the qualities that are necessary to lead SAG. He may someday, but not after only a single year of service and 3 meetings. Even Barack Obama had decades of public activism and service before he ran for congress – and lost. Before he ran for the Senate, he served as a state representative in the Illinois legislature. Then had 4 or 5 active and productive years as a US Senator before becoming President.

Some folks will not vote for a candidate but vote against one or against a slate. That’s a mistake. It’s the same mistake that’s been made over and over and has resulted in the remedial partisan politics that continues to cripple solidarity. If that’s how you choose your leadership, you are part of the problem; not the solution. If you are concerned that Anne-Marie has been too partisan, I urge you to read her statement to the Hollywood Board after the latest TV/Theatrical contract was ratified. Remember she fought tooth and nail against it, but it was ratified. The single most important and basic principle of her personal, labor, and leadership philosophy is reflected in her first sentence.

“The Membership has finally spoken and now it is time to prepare for October 2010.”

The Membership is the ultimate authority of this union and there is no greater champion of that principle than Anne-Marie Johnson. Even when she doesn’t agree, once the collective will is expressed, she considers it her (and leadership’s) marching orders. In fact, she consistently urged, at every practical opportunity, that the membership be allowed to express its opinion. Whether a poll or Strike Authorization or a Contract Ratification, Anne-Marie Johnson ALWAYS voted for the membership be heard. Always. I don’t know how or whether Ken voted. Once the membership is heard, whether she agrees or not, it’s time to get to work – to accomplish the expressed will. No gloating. No whining. No vacation. She shows up, rolls up her sleeves, focuses, and executes.

I didn’t know Anne-Marie at all a year ago. I was, in truth, suspicious of most of the characters that had dedicated so much of their time for so long to SAG. What was missing in their lives that they had to fill it up with playing “labor leader?” It soon became apparent that no one was “playing at” anything and least of all Anne-Marie; that it was the rest of us who had been “playing” by having grand opinions without the benefit of proper information or experience. It also became obvious that it was “we” – me and members like me – who were missing something. We needed to participate, get informed, and by doing so, achieve the solidarity necessary to accomplish our goals. It doesn’t happen any other way.

I read Anne-Marie’s testimony to Congress about the consolidation of media ownership and of film and television production. I heard her explain with Pam Fair the long (15+ years) journey Sacramento took to arrive at the film and TV production incentives initiative finally adopted this year. I saw her chair committee meetings, participate in negotiations, and chair the Hollywood Division Board Meetings. She is a powerhouse and has earned every ounce of my respect and admiration. I have disagreed with her from time to time but I have never doubted her sincerity, intelligence, ability, and respect. To be sure, she is a force to be reckoned with but she also listens better and harder than anyone except perhaps Connie Stevens. Both women are solution-driven and the potential of their team is extraordinary.

The challenges facing SAG – the REAL challenges – demand the proper tools and the demonstrated ability to use them that Anne-Marie Johnson brings to the table. I’ll say it again, not just for emphasis, but because I believe it without qualification:

There has never been a better-prepared, more qualified, or appropriately skilled candidate for president of SAG than Anne-Marie Johnson in our lifetime and perhaps, in the history of the union.

In Solidarity,
Clancy Brown