Duncan Crabtree-Ireland will be SAG-AFTRA’s next national executive director and chief negotiator, succeeding David White when he steps down from the post on June 21. The promotion of Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s longtime second-in-command, was approved today at a special meeting of the national board of directors, which also approved his new three-year contract. His promotion was approved by 64.82% of the board members, with 35.18% opposed.
Crabtree-Ireland has been the union’s general counsel since 2006 and its chief operating officer since 2014, and he previously served as the Screen Actors Guild’s deputy national executive director.
White announced on May 14 that he would be stepping down from the job he’s held since 2009, telling Deadline that the decision to leave “was hard, but this is a natural inflection point. I wanted to make sure we got through the darkest period of the pandemic. Once past that, I knew that it was time.”
Crabtree-Ireland said: “It is an honor to accept this position, and I look forward to continuing to work with members, the board, officers and staff in this new role. Together, we will build on the successes that have been achieved in recent years, as well as strategizing and innovating for the future as we navigate the dramatic changes taking place in our industry. I am grateful to the National Board for its vote of confidence and remain in awe of SAG-AFTRA’s remarkable history and service to its members.”
Added SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris: “I couldn’t be more pleased that our board has selected Duncan as national executive director. Duncan is a natural choice, an experienced leader and well respected by members and staff. I am confident that under his leadership, the union will continue building on the achievements and stability he has overseen working alongside David White over the past dozen years. I congratulate Duncan and look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”
“Duncan’s leadership and command of the issues important to SAG-AFTRA members has always led his work,” Carteris said in a message to the union’s members. “Whether it is his efforts on behalf of members on the international stage, spearheading the Covid-19 return-to-work initiative, leading the union’s negotiations with the major record labels and Telemundo, championing the union’s equity and inclusion initiatives, and so much more, Duncan has been involved in nearly everything the union does. With that deep level of involvement and established relationships with industry players, he is uniquely equipped to protect the membership and take SAG-AFTRA to the next level.
“The most important quality any SAG-AFTRA national executive director can have is an understanding of our union and our membership. With 20 years of committed service Duncan has helped to elevate this organization and has been intrinsic in its success.
“I have had the honor of working with Duncan for the past 13 years,” she continued. “I sat in the room where he negotiated the first new network television contract in over 50 years, with Telemundo, bringing health and pension, and workplace protections to performers who never had them before. I was also in the room where he negotiated the first worldwide streaming royalty for recording artists and our first music video agreement covering background. You can rest assured that our union is in good hands with Duncan. He is someone who can effectively carry out the national board’s vision.”
At the previous board meeting, Carteris — with the unanimous support of the union’s other nine national officers — presented a recommendation that was approved by the board authorizing her and outside counsel to conduct a due diligence review and discuss a proposed employment agreement for the position, with Crabtree-Ireland to be brought back to the national board for its consideration at today’s meeting. The compensation he’ll receive as the union’s new chief executive was not disclosed to the press.
Crabtree-Ireland was a key participant in the merger of SAG and AFTRA in 2012, served as the coordinator of SAG-AFTRA’s Covid-19 safety response and return-to-work initiatives and has been the the lead negotiator for SAG-AFTRA’s music contracts. Fluent in English and Spanish, he has served as the lead negotiator for SAG-AFTRA’s contract with the Telemundo network for Spanish-language productions, oversees the union’s bilingual initiative and is a co-host of the SAG-AFTRA en Español podcast.
He also played a central role in the 160,000-member union’s strategic planning efforts and diversity programs, and oversaw SAG-AFTRA’s Legal, Governance, Government Affairs & Public Policy, Professional Representatives, Equity & Inclusion, Administration, and Information Technology departments, as well as the union’s international affairs, including foreign royalties.
Wearing many hats, he is also the chair of the board of trustees of the SAG-AFTRA & Industry Sound Recordings Distribution Fund; the co-chair of the board of trustees of the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund; a member of the boards of the SAG-Producers Pension Plan, the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan and SoundExchange; and is a delegate to the International Federation of Actors, serving as co-convenor of its Global Diversity Working Group.
A longtime adjunct professor at USC’s Law School, he is a past chair of the Conference of California Bar Associations, a past treasurer of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, a past co-president of the LGBTQ Bar Association of Los Angeles and serves by appointment as a judge pro tem of the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Crabtree-Ireland formerly served as a criminal prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Peggy Browning Award; the Corporate Counsel Award from the Los Angeles Business Journal; the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Samuel L. Williams Outstanding Trustee Award; the Profiles in Diversity Award from the Association of Corporate Counsel and the California Minority Counsel Project; the Co-President’s Award from the Los Angeles LGBTQ+ Bar Association; and Labor Counsel of the Year honor from the Association of Media & Entertainment Counsel. In 2019, he received the SAG-AFTRA George Heller Memorial Award for extraordinary service to SAG-AFTRA and its members.