EXCLUSIVE: Matthew Modine has thrown his hat into the ring as a candidate for president of SAG-AFTRA. Modine, a member of the union’s local and national boards of directors, is running at the top of the Membership First ticket, the self-styled progressive wing of the union that promises more democracy and transparency — which the union’s loyal opposition says is in short supply. He seeks to unseat Gabrielle Carteris, who’s been president of the union since 2016.
“As a current national and local board member of SAG-AFTRA, it would be my honor to represent all 160,000 members of the union I have proudly been a member of for nearly four decades,” he said in a statement. “It is my privilege to stand up for our legacy in order to safeguard our future. There comes a time when we must work to ensure that current and future membership will be able to enjoy the basic rights and securities our union has always provided. It’s my time to give back.”
Modine didn’t talk politics in the announcement of his candidacy, but Membership First – which opposed the merger of SAG and AFTRA back in 2012 – wants a union that takes a tougher stand at the bargaining table. “There are over 450 scripted television programs,” its website states, “yet it’s harder than ever for working actors to make a living or get pension and health credits because the contracts haven’t kept up with the marketplace.”
Membership First also says that it will appoint pension and health trustees “who understand and appreciate that the actions they take have very serious effects on people’s lives. The actions the current trustees have taken lately show a complete lack of understanding, let alone compassion. Allowing the union’s staff to have a better pension than its members is a prime example of how bad our current trustees are.” But above all, it says, “We want our union to actually be governed by the membership, not board members who accede to every staff whim and want.”
Its mission statement says that “We strive to make our union what it was created to be: the most powerful and respected entertainment union in the world; a union that’s run democratically with transparency. We will negotiate the best contracts possible, hire the best staff, and be a powerhouse partner at the bargaining table. A union that effectively responds to all of its members’ needs. A union every member can be proud of and rely on to protect our livelihood.”
Modine has received supporting endorsements from past SAG presidents Ed Asner, Bill Daniels and Alan Rosenberg, and from SAG-AFTRA national board members Martin Sheen, Frances Fisher, Pam Guest, David Jolliffe, Esai Morales, Patricia Richardson, Jodi Long and Marie Fink.
Other celebrity endorsers include Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Mira Sorvino, Eric Stoltz, Nancy Sinatra, Patricia Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, Sean Astin, Jennifer Beals, Ernie Hudson, Kent McCord, Alfred Molina, Bill Mumy, Adam Baldwin, Billy Baldwin, Jessica Barth, Megan Boone, Adam Brody, Kevin Corrigan, Marcia Cross, Bruce Davison, Edi Gathegi, Rebekah Graf, Scott Grimes, Nick Guest, Melissa Joan Hart, Dennis Haysbert, Arliss Howard, Louis Herthum, Steve Lukather, Costas Mandalor, Heather Matarazzo, Leighton Meester, Ruby Modine, Glenn Plummer, Cristina Rackoff, Maya Lynn Robinson, Alan Ruck, James Russo, Sebastian Siegel, Frank Stallone, Mena Suvari, Scottie Thompson, Stuart Townsend, Grace Van Patten, Lisa Ann Walter and Madeline Zima.
Modine has also reached out to the stunt community for their support. A short video that accompanied his announcement can be seen below.
With more than 100 acting credits, Modine starred as the sinister Dr. Martin Brenner in Stranger Things, and as Private Joker in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. His many other credits include Dark Knight Rises, Married to the Mob, Vision Quest, Memphis Belle, Shortcuts, Birdy and Showtime’s Weeds.
A political activist and environmentalist, he founded CardCarryingLiberal.net, a grassroots movement dedicated to human rights. He’s also an avid supporter of The Wounded Warrior Project, the Purple Heart Foundation, and God’s Love We Deliver, which is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses by alleviating hunger and malnutrition.
An avid bicyclist, he is the founder of Bicycle for a Day, whose mission is to encourage bicycling as a way toward better health and environmental sustainability, and is currently working on his global DO-ONE Campaign that encourages and empowers individuals to “do one” thing every day to reduce wasteful behaviors.