Department Of Labor Sets Date To Decide On SAG-AFTRA Election Challenges

The U.S. Department of Labor says it will decide by January 10 whether to file suit against SAG-AFTRA for alleged labor law violations in connection with the union’s recent elections.

The DOL has received eight such complaints – many of which were brought by supporters of losing presidential candidate Matthew Modine and his Membership First slate – which accuse the union and its leaders of a long list of election irregularities. They include charges that SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris used the union’s resources to promote her candidacy and that she received “an improper employer contribution” through her work as an executive producer and cast member on Fox’s BH90210, in which she played a fictionalized version of herself as president of the fictional Actors Guild of America. The show premiered during the union’s election.

Gabrielle Carteris

All the allegations were dismissed by the union’s national election committee, and Carteris’ Unite for Strength slate, which denied all the charges, accused her accusers of being “sore losers” whose “frivolous” complaints are a “baseless distraction” that “harms our membership and attempts to prevent us from doing the vital work members elected their leadership to do.”

The DOL could order the guild to rerun the election if it finds violations that might have affected the outcome. The DOL did just that in 2002, when it forced the old Screen Actors Guild to rerun its presidential election after it was discovered the union had sent out incorrect ballots to members in New York. Melissa Gilbert, who defeated Valerie Harper in the first race, beat her again in the rerun.

In a November 15 letter to Carteris, DOL District Director Edgar Oquendo wrote:

“This letter confirms our agreement extending the time within which the Secretary of Labor may file suit under Title IV of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959.

“The Office of Labor-Management Standards received seven complaints under Section 402 of the LMRDA concerning the August 28, 2019, election of officers in SAG-AFTRA, Additionally, OLMS has received one complaint under Section 402 of the LMRDA concerning the election of officers at the SAG-AFTRA convention held on October 11, 2019.

“OLMS is conducting an investigation concerning these matters. This letter confirms our agreement that the time within which the Secretary of Labor may file suit under Section 402 of the LMRDA based on the filing of those complaints be extended to January 10, 2020.

”For that purpose, SAG-AFTRA waives any defenses it might otherwise have regarding the timeliness of a civil action based on the filing of those complaints which might be brought by the Secretary of Labor under Section 402 of the LMRDA on or before the extended date of January 10, 2020.

“Please indicate your acceptance of this agreement by signing in the space provided below and returning the original of this letter to me in the enclosed envelope. I have enclosed a copy of this letter with my signature for your records.” Attorney Susan Davis signed the letter on behalf of Carteris.

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