“We conclude that there was no violation of the SAG-AFTRA Constitution, the Election Policy, or federal election law,” the committee found. “Accordingly, we dismiss all post-election protests.” Read the committee’s full decision here.
With the exhaustion of their internal union remedies, the protestors now are taking their complaints to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Many of the protests of the bitterly contested election contained overlapping allegations, including the claim that Carteris received an improper employer contribution through her work as an executive producer and cast member on Fox’s BH90210, in which she played a version of herself as president of the fictional Actors Guild of America. The show, a reboot of Beverly Hills, 90210, premiered during the union’s election.
This claim had been brought by several supporters of presidential candidate Matthew Modine, including Jodi Long, his secretary-treasurer running mate; Adam Nelson, his spokesman; and local board member Brian Hamilton, a co-founder of the Membership First opposition party.
In dismissing this claim, the election committee found:
“Although the show aired in August 2019, production began significantly before the election. Rather than play their original 90210 characters, the cast members play fictionalized versions of their real-life selves. … Consistent with the treatment of all cast members, Carteris’ character on the new series, ‘Gabrielle,’ is partially based on her current life. In the new series, Carteris is the president of a fictional union, ‘Actors Guild of America,’ a reference to Carteris’ position as the SAG-AFTRA president. The primary character arc of ‘Gabrielle,’ however, focuses on her becoming a grandmother and exploring her sexuality.
“We have reviewed the clips provided by the protesters, which total approximately 1 minute and 15 seconds out of a total of six 43-minute episodes. The clips do not refer to ‘Gabrielle’ running for union office or to an internal union election. There is nothing that occurs on the series that can even remotely be considered to be promoting Carteris’ candidacy. A fictionalized reference to an incumbent candidate’s union position in the context of a dramatic television series, standing alone, simply does not violate Section 401(g)” of the of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act.
“Similarly, there is no basis for the protestors’ allegation that Carteris’ status as an executive producer constitutes an improper employer contribution. As noted, the television series does not refer to Carteris’ candidacy or the upcoming union election. All of the original Beverly Hill 90210 cast members who participated in the reboot were given executive producer status. Since the series does not promote Carteris as a candidate for office, this title is of no import.
“In sum, we find that Carteris participation in the BH90210 series, both as a cast member and an executive producer, did not constitute receipt of an unlawful employer contribution.”
Another claim alleged that SAG-AFTRA improperly allowed Carteris to revise her candidate statement after the submission deadline in order to include information about the recently negotiated collective bargaining agreement between SAG-AFTRA and Netflix, while another claimed that she “breached confidentiality” by including details regarding the Netflix agreement in her candidate statement prior to the agreement’s presentation to the union’s national board.
In dismissing these claims, the election committee found that “the protesters presented no evidence that Carteris revised her candidate statement after the deadline for submission of candidate statements,” and that the union’s IT department “confirmed that Carteris’ statements were not altered prior to their July 24, 2019 publication.”
The committee also found that “the protestors have provided no evidence that Carteris was under an official order or obligation to keep this information confidential prior to presentation to the National Board on July 20, 2019,” and that “as the chair of the TV/Theatrical negotiating committee, it follows that Carteris became aware of the final terms prior to this presentation to the National Board.” In any event, the committee found, her reference to the Netflix deal in her candidate’s statement “had no impact on the outcome of the election.”
Another claim alleged that Carteris improperly used union resources – including the SAG-AFTRA logo, SAG-AFTRA graphics and design, and a union-owned photograph – in a campaign video. In dismissing this claim, the committee found that there is “no evidence that the photo appearing at the beginning of the video is the property of the union.” As for the union logo appearing in her video, the committee found:
“The only depiction of the SAG-AFTRA logo was in a photo of Carteris shown at the beginning of the video, where Carteris is seated in a room with the logo situated on the wall behind her. The photo appears in the context of a video wherein Carteris asks for member support in the SAG-AFTRA election. The video also contains the logo and web address of Carteris’ campaign, Unite for Strength, and its New York-affiliated slate, USAN. The video ends in a disclaimer ‘Not Paid for by SAG-AFTRA Funds.’ Because the video unmistakably belongs to the campaign, not the Union, the photo showing the SAG-AFTRA logo cannot reasonably be construed as an endorsement by SAG-AFTRA of Carteris.
“The fact the Carteris is shown in front of the logo is of no moment, as nothing in the video suggests that the Union endorsed her. The Dept. of Labor has consistently held that the mere appearance in a photo of a candidate and a union logo, on a t-shirt or otherwise, does not constitute an endorsement. Accordingly, we find that the photo in the campaign video depicting Carteris does not constitute a violation of the Election Policy or applicable federal law.”
Another protest claimed that union resources were used to promote Carteris’ candidacy through a union-sponsored podcast. But the election committee found that “since the podcast episodes relate to timely and relevant newsworthy union issues, do not reference the upcoming election, and do not include statements that would constitute the endorsement or denigration of any candidate, we find no violation of the Election Policy or applicable federal election law.”
“As the highest elected officer of SAG-AFTRA, Carteris, through the podcast, discussed numerous issues of significant and legitimate concern to the SAG-AFTRA membership,” the committee found. “Neither she, her co-host, nor any guest ever mentioned the election. Nor did the co-host or any guest say anything to promote Carteris candidacy or denigrate any other candidate. Neither the timing, tone, nor content of the podcast raises any concerns.”
As for a claim that that Carteris improperly engaged in “electioneering” by traveling “around the country to support the passage of a commercial contract,” the committee found that “Carteris was chair of the Negotiating Committee for the Commercials Contract and, in this capacity, traveled to New York to attend negotiating sessions. The protestors provide no evidence that Carteris engaged in campaigning for the election on these trips or on any other union-sponsored travel. As Carteris made these trips as chair of the Negotiating Committee on official union business, we find no violation.”
Another protest filed by Nelson alleged that the election committee itself is biased because all of its members were “selected and seated by UFS, Ms. Carteris’ political party.” The election committee, however, noted that its members were “appointed by the National Board, and not, as alleged, by any political party. The appointment was the result of a unanimous decision by the National Board. We find no violation.”
An allegation that presidential candidates Queen Alljahye Searles and Abraham Justice were improperly excluded from an August 15 presidential town hall was also dismissed by the election committee, which found that “As SAG-AFTRA did not pay for or sponsor this event, we find no violation.” Only presidential candidates Carteris, Modine and Jane Austin were invited to attend the town hall, which was hosted by an outside group called Union Working.
A protest filed by local board member Peter Antico and several others alleged that Carteris improperly used the SAG-AFTRA membership database to electioneer. The election committee, however, found that “The only support that the protestors provide for this allegation is a list of endorsements from certain National Officers, Local Board members, and Local Officers on the website for Carteris’ slate, Unite for Strength. However, the protesters provide no evidence that Carteris communicated with these National and Local Officers and Board members by using the SAG-AFTRA membership list. Carteris, as the incumbent president, has obviously met and interacted with these National and Local Board members throughout her presidency (and, prior to that, while she was Executive Vice President). Endorsements by union officers made without using union resources do not constitute a violation of the Election Policy or federal election law. Since no facts, documentation, or evidence has been provided to substantiate the protestors’ claim that Carteris used the SAG-AFTRA membership list, we find no violation here.”
Having exhausted his internal remedies, Antico has now taken his protest to the Department of Labor. Others have or are expected to follow suit.
Numerous other protests, all of which were dismissed by the election committee, were filed by SAG-AFTRA convention delegates Anthony Marciona, Richard Hadfield and Jennae Hoving, and by members Susan Kathryn Hefti, Jamie Theurich, Dimitrios Koutsomitis, Renee Boakes and Michael Woods.