The L.A. local, which represents nearly half of the union’s entire membership, long has been a stronghold for the MembershipFirst opposition party, which won all three of the local’s officer races, 11 of the 14 open national board seats and 31 of the 41 local board seats reserved for actors and performers. They were the top 10 vote-getters for the national board and the top nine for the local board.
Gabrielle Carteris, who did not seek re-election as national president, was elected as a delegate to the union’s next convention but didn’t make the cut to win one of the 14 national board seats, finishing 16th.
Long, who won a Daytime Emmy this year for her role on Netflix’s Dash & Lily, was Modine’s running mate two years ago when he lost to Carteris. Modine lost again, this time to Fran Drescher, in the national presidential race, but his running mate, Joely Fisher, has been elected national secretary-treasurer. Modine, however, was the top vote-getter in both the L.A. national and local board races.
Long has served as a member of the union’s national and L.A. Local boards for nearly a decade and currently serves on the union’s Executive Committee and the EEOC Committee. As a member of the TV Theatrical negotiating team, she says that she’s seen “the hard-fought gains in our contracts slowly being whittled away” and that what most concerns her now is “the next generation of performers and seniors having enough protections to make a decent living while qualifying for health and pension benefits.”
MembershipFirst candidates Sheryl Lee Ralph and David Jolliffe were elected 1st and 2nd vice presidents of the local, defeating the respective Unite for Strength ruling party candidates Jeff Garlin and Katie Von Till.
The 11 national board seats won by MembershipFirst candidates in L.A. still leaves the opposition group far short of a majority on the 80-member national board.
Sharon Stone, running on the MembershipFirst slate, was elected to the national board for the first time, finishing second behind Modine. Health coverage, or the loss of it, was a major campaign issue for MembershipFirst candidates, and Stone said she lost her vested SAG-AFTRA health insurance during the pandemic because she fell $13 short of qualifying.
“As actors, you know, things have not been going well for us,” she said in a video promoting her candidacy. “I don’t think you need me to tell you that. I mean, I lost my vested insurance after 43 years in the business because of Covid. I was $13 short and, you know, I don’t really think that that is reasonable for any of us.”
Trustees of the SAG-AFTRA Health Plan, facing staggering deficits, raised eligibility requirements on January 1. Those changes sparked a lawsuit that claims that they “illegally discriminate based on age” – a charge flatly denied by the trustees, who say the changes were necessary to keep the plan afloat. Earlier this week, a federal judge denied the Plan’s motion to dismiss the case.
Along with Fisher, Ralph and Jolliffe, other MembershipFirst candidates to win seats on the national board include Esai Morales, Brad Garrett, Sean Astin, Anne-Marie Johnson, Stefanie Powers and Michael Rapaport.
Unite for Strength candidates won only three national board seats in Los Angeles. Camryn Manheim, the union’s outgoing national secretary-treasurer, won a seat by finishing 11th, followed by Shari Belafonte and Dulé Hill.
In the local board races, Elliott Gould finished second behind Modine. Astin, who finished sixth in the national board races and third in the local board contests, finished first in a large field candidates vying to be convention delegates.
KTLA entertainment reporter Sam Rubin, also running on the MembershipFirst slate, won a local board seat representing broadcasters. An interview he did Joely Fisher last month became a flash point of controversy after the station’s management declined a demand by Unite for Strength to give “equal access” to its candidates. Before interviewing Fisher, Rubin disclosed his affiliation with MembershipFirst and said that “candidates from both groups are very much welcome on our show here.” The union’s national election committee claimed that by not granting equal time, the interview amounted to an “unlawful employer contribution” from KTLA.
The number of members who are eligible to vote in L.A. has dropped precipitously during the pandemic — down 18% from two years ago, when 73,132 L.A. members were paid up in their dues. This year, only 59,974 were eligible, which is 13,158 fewer. Nationally, the number of eligible members dropped by 16%, down from 145,700 in 2019 to 122,154 this year, 23,546 fewer. Even so, interest in the union’s election was higher this time. Despite their fewer numbers, nearly 1,000 more L.A. members cast ballots than two years ago. Nearly 23% of the local’s members voted this year compared to just 17.4% in 2019.