UPDATED with corrected information (see below): Whoopi Goldberg, Matt Dillon, Mia Farrow, Liam Neeson, Diane Keaton, Mark Hamill, Nick Nolte and George Takei are part of an an all-star lineup of SAG-AFTRA members who have endorsed Matthew Modine for president of the union, and Joely Fisher, his running mate, for secretary-treasurer.
“I’m very happy to say that I’m going to vote for Matt Modine,” Goldberg said in a recent campaign statement video (watch it here). “I’ve known him forever and I just feel like he can get us back to a union that is representing all of us – the very oldest of us and the very newest of us. I’m very grateful that someone is willing to come in and straighten up what many of us are concerned about.”
Said Takei: “SAG-AFTRA needs a change. I have been a dues-paying member of SAG since 1959 and I am outraged at the spineless current leadership at SAG-AFTRA. The SAG-AFTRA Health plan, in the middle of the biggest public health emergency in a century, changed eligibility requirements that forced as many as 12,000 off the plan — including 8,200 senior performers, declaring that members who are 65 and older can no longer use residuals income to qualify for insurance coverage. I am one of them. Members need help. We need strong leadership. That’s why I’m voting Mathew Modine for president, Joely Fisher for secretary-treasurer and Jodi Long for L.A. Local president.”
Other A-list Modine endorsers include Vincent D’Onofrio, Winona Ryder, Nancy Sinatra, Debra Winger, Meg Ryan, Patricia Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Shirley Jones, Ed Harris, Jennifer Beals, Sandra Bernhard, Dyan Cannon, Margaret Cho, Neve Campbell, Linda Carter, Louis Gossett Jr., Shirley Jones, Bill Pullman, Rosie Perez, Elizabeth Perkins, Sally Struthers, David Alan Grier, George Stephanopoulos and Cindy Williams.
Modine and Fisher, running at the top of the opposition’s MembershipFirst slate, are squaring off against Fran Drescher and Anthony Rapp at the top of the Unite for Strength and USAN slate. Ballots were mailed to members on Tuesday and will be tabulated September 2.
“If you are a performer and a SAG-AFTRA member then you must get behind this movement,” D’Onofrio said in his statement. “MembershipFirst will reshape our union back into what we were meant to be. For the people, the artists. Get behind this and elect all these wonderful sisters and brothers. Vote MembershipFirst.”
“Our Union has been headed in the wrong direction, for many years now,” Hamill said. “Members have seen our positions weakened, particularly in healthcare and residuals. Contact negotiations have failed us, in many ways. From giving away our long-held travel and location provisions and protections, to giving away 90% of our syndication residuals. The MembershipFirst candidates acknowledged these problems and have pledged to do better. They have my complete support.”
Shirley Jones said: “Having been a union member for over seven decades, I was stunned to learn I had lost my secondary health care, something I was assured I’d have for the rest of my life. Under the strong leadership of Matthew Modine and Joely Fisher, and the entire MembershipFirst Team, I am certain travesties like this will never occur.”
“I am a union member and want someone who represents actors not studios,” Arquette said. “Matthew Modine and Joely Fisher represent actors and will bring back what the Union was meant to be, to protect actors.”
Beals, addressing the union’s members, wrote: “When you vote, consider who is going to FIGHT for you, who is going to bring transparency to the table. I’m voting Modine•Fisher and for this fierce, brilliant lady, Sharon Stone. #MembershipFirst.” Stone is running for a seat on the union’s national board.
Struthers called for “New leadership” and “a change of folks at the table. The operative word in that last sentence is ‘CHANGE’. Need I say more?”
See MembershipFirst’s many other endorsers below.
In a new campaign video, Modine says that the union’s members “are fed up because they’re tired of poor contract negotiations. Our members know that the current leadership has compromised their financial security. Our members are disgusted by the treatment of our most senior members and why our union would push members who have contributed to the health plan over the course of their careers off of their own health plan. Members are furious because they know their residuals are under threat. Background performers haven’t had a cost-of-living increase since 1982. Every member of our union has lost a great deal the past decade because of the so-called leadership of this administration.”
The video also features comments from secretary-treasurer candidate Fisher; L.A. Local presidential candidate Long; and L.A. Local vice presidential and national board candidates David Jolliffe and Sheryl Lee Ralph – all of whom blasted the union’s current leadership while promising to protect the safety and economic well-being of the members. The video is moderated by national board candidate Anne-Marie Johnson.
A MembershipFirst campaign flyer sent to members today outlines the key issues they say they’ll address.
The current national leadership and the Trustees operated in bad faith resulting in over 11,750 participants (plus their dependents) losing their SAG-AFTRA health coverage. We will appoint Trustees who will honestly share the state of both the Pension and Health Plans with our Negotiating Committees and Members so that they will know what to fight for to guarantee funding necessary to insure stability.
DIVERSITY AND DISABILITY:
Our Union has yet to truly focus its strength on enforcing the Policy of Non-Discrimination and Diversity sections of our contracts to support underrepresented members. What we see on screen must realistically depict the diversity of the “American Scene” we see in life. We vow to examine all layers and nuances and create a fair and equitable workplace for all our diverse and disabled members and the creative community at large.
Pre-pandemic, our Los Angeles Local was in the process of offering self-taping but due to suppression by the current National Leadership, we were not allowed to provide support to our members. Under new MembershipFirst National Leadership, we will establish industry guidelines to protect our members from disrespectful and unreasonable self-taping requirements and resume and expand our Local’s self-taping services to spare our members from another cost pushed onto us by casting and production.
OUR OWN FREE CASTING PLATFORM:
We will build our own, cutting-edge, free online casting platform for our members to replace the external, for-profit platforms like Actors Access, Casting Networks, and Casting Frontier, saving our members millions of dollars per year.
Our union has failed to make meaningful improvements to the background sections of all our contracts. Our members demand raising the caps placed on work opportunities, better wages, expanded geographical coverage, and a guaranteed voice on the National Board. We will continue our fight to improve the professional lives of all background artists.
Our union continues to have an inadequate response in our contracts and internal policies to combat this ongoing threat. We must codify rules that will empower all members with the ability to report privately, hold their predators accountable with real consequences, heal their trauma, and provide them with education, resources and support.
NEGOTIATIONS AND RESIDUALS:
We have lost hundreds of millions of dollars because our contracts have never kept pace with exhibition platforms as they have evolved. Our residuals are an essential part of our ability to maintain a stable income while preserving our rightful continuing participation in the content we help create. They are consistently being traded away in each shortsighted contract negotiation. We must eliminate the practice of pre-paying residuals (buy-outs) regardless of platform.
For years, a staggering $6 million per year has been spent on renting our SAG-AFTRA offices in Los Angeles. In February of 2021, the current National Board inexplicably locked us into a new long term multi-million dollar lease until 2032. We will take the prudent step of acquiring real estate assets, consistent with every other entertainment union, using good judgment and sound financial planning.
Here’s a list of other celebrity endorsers of Modine:
Millie Bobby Brown
Clifton Collins, Jr.
William Daniels, a former SAG president
Tricia Leigh Fisher
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Laura San Giacomo
Anna Deavere Smith
Editors note: The post has been updated to reflect that Matt Dillon, not Matt Damon, is endorsing Matthew Modine for SAG-AFTRA president. We regret the error.
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