Saying that “your vote counts, even if they make you do it twice,” a group of SAG-AFTRA members in New Orleans say they will “embrace” the mandated re-run of their local’s election even though they think the do-over is the result of a “biased decision.”
“The decision to re-run the NOLA election is a biased decision, and extremely discouraging,” said the NOLA Slate for Change opposition party, which won all but one of the contested local races. “News of this ruling quickly reverberated throughout our local membership. The committee’s decision is seen as an ‘old guard’ attempt to discount the membership’s desire for systematic change. The outpouring of support and encouragement for the NOLA Slate for Change candidates has pushed us to embrace the re-run as another opportunity for our membership to clearly state their desire for overwhelming change.”
The order to re-run the election was made by the local’s election committee, which found that the NOLA Slate for Change candidates had accepted “unlawful contributions” from employers at a campaign event held on June 29. Matthew Modine, who finished second to Gabrielle Carteris for national SAG-AFTRA president, attended the event and was endorsed by the NOLA Slate for Change. The New Orleans local was a stronghold for Modine, but all the winning candidates there who supported him will now have to re-run their elections
A protest filed with the election committee by several losing candidates from the ruling Union Strong NOLA slate alleged that a local distillery had provided the venue for that event and the food and beverages that were served there. The local election committee agreed and ordered all the races to be re-run except the race for president, which was won by incumbent Diana Boylston, whose Union Strong NOLA slate was aligned with Carteris’ Unite for Strength (UFS) slate. The election committee decided that Boylston won’t have to re-run her election after finding that she “did not benefit from the unlawful contributions” – even though she also attended the event in question.
Boylston defeated challenger Olga Wilhelmine for president of the local by just 13 votes (116-103). That race is the only one that won’t be done over again, but Boylston, who finished out of the running for one of the local’s five open board seats, now will get a second chance at a local board seat.
Wilhelmine — who won the race for a seat on SAG-AFTRA’s national board — will have to re-run that election, as will all of her running mates including Randal Gonzalez, who won the race for vice president, and Kerry Kelly Gridley, who won for secretary-treasurer. All the local board and delegate races, which virtually were swept by NOLA Slate for Change candidates, will also have to be re-run.
Although it will abide by the ruling, the NOLA Slate for Change said in a statement, “We dispute the decision of the NOLA Election Committee in determining that a rerun of the NOLA election must be held while excluding president elect Diana Boylston.”
The NOLA Slate for Change also challenged the forced recusal of two of the election committee’s five original members. “Two members, both minorities, were forced into recusal for liking several online posts, leaving the USF-affiliated committee of three.” The three remaining committee members, NOLA Slate for Change alleged, “have a long history of friendship and work relationships” with members of the ruling Union Strong NOLA candidates.
As reported here Tuesday, more than a dozen protests of Carteris’ re-election as SAG-AFTRA president have been dismissed by the union’s national election committee.