EXCLUSIVE: SAG-AFTRA members attending the Los Angeles native’s membership assembly have voted overwhelmingly to scrap the union’s biennial conference. A movement, authorized by 68% of the roughly 250 members who voted, referred to as the conference “a waste of time and a waste of members’ dues.”
This yr’s conference can be digital, so the associated fee can be comparatively minimal, however sources say that the 2019 event value about $1 million to placed on and to fly in a number of hundred out-of-town delegates and put them up for 3 days on the Beverly Hilton.
The conference, which is a holdover from AFTRA’s governance construction when it merged with SAG in 2012, offers elected delegates from locals throughout the nation the possibility to community, hear speeches from their leaders, vote on resolutions and elect SAG-AFTRA’s govt vice chairman and 7 nationwide vice presidents. The movement to scrap the conference states that these officers “should be elected by the entire membership, not by a small group.” The union’s different two nationwide officers – president and secretary-treasurer – are elected by all the membership.
SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris Recaps Union’s Work During Pandemic At L.A. Local’s Membership Meeting
Approved on Saturday, the movement is barely advisory to the native’s board, which may then make a advice to the nationwide board. But truly eliminating the conference would require amending the SAG-AFTRA Constitution. Article XVIII of the Constitution offers a number of strategies by which it may be amended: at conference, by the nationwide board, or by a referendum of the total membership. But it expressly states that a number of provisions of the Constitution will not be topic to modification, together with the identify of the union; its affiliation with the AFL-CIO; the institution of the nationwide board, and Sections A & D of Article VII, which offer for the “Establishment of Convention” and “Convention quorum/voting.”
And whereas the conference most likely gained’t – or can’t – be gotten rid of, the vote to scrap it’s indicative of the longstanding political schism inside SAG-AFTRA. The union’s nationwide management and its nationwide board are dominated by supporters of president Gabrielle Carteris and her Unite for Strength faction – which additionally supported the merger of SAG and AFTRA – whereas the L.A. management and native board are dominated by her opponents from the Membership First faction, which opposed the merger.
Supporters of the conference say it’s a democratic method of involving as many members as potential within the affairs of the union. Critics, nonetheless, say it has develop into much less about membership engagement than a battlefield for partisan bickering that’s designed to preclude power-sharing by holding the ruling occasion in workplace. At the 2019 conference, Carteris’ supporters swept the elections of all eight vice presidencies, fully shutting out her opponents. That identical yr, in an acrimonious battle that left unhealthy emotions on each side of the divide, Carteris was elected president nationally, however solely completed twentieth in her race for a seat on the board of the L.A. native, which represents nearly precisely half of the union’s 160,000 members.
That election additionally noticed her opponents win a majority of the L.A. native’s board seats and all of its prime officer spots. Patricia Richardson, who was elected president, and Frances Fisher and David Jolliffe, who have been elected first and second vice presidents, respectively, hosted Saturday’s L.A. membership assembly.
Not surprisingly, their supporters and critics seen the assembly fairly in a different way. “This was an incredibly professional and deeply informative meeting of our local,” mentioned a widely known actor who attended. “Thank you president Richardson and vice presidents Fisher and Joliffe for your excellent leadership.”
“The meeting seemed to serve as little more than political theater,” mentioned a critic. “While they barred local board members from speaking, they repeatedly opined from the dais themselves.”
“Board members were not allowed to speak because this was a meeting of the members,” mentioned an organizer. “They get to talk at board meetings all they want.”
Several different advisory motions have been additionally handed overwhelmingly, together with:
• Where potential, the nationwide board shall grant extra autonomy and suppleness to locals particularly on the subject of working conferences, city halls and committee work. Yes 86%; No 14%.
• That the union implement a member-facing means on its web site to trace the standing of all handed motions from all native conferences so all members can know the standing of lively motions. Yes: 89%; No 11%.
• Create a taskforce to deal with distant points associated to the audition self-taping course of. Yes 95%; No 5%.
The union’s political divide got here into public view once more final summer season throughout the ratification of its new movie and TV contract. In June, the nationwide board voted to approve the deal, 67.6% to 32.4%, and despatched it to the membership with a advice to ratify it. In July, nonetheless, the L.A. native’s board voted simply the alternative: 69% to 31% to oppose ratification. In the tip, members ratified it overwhelmingly, by a vote of 74.2% to 25.8%.
Union well being advantages have been one other dividing line between the factions, and there was a movement for that too on Saturday, though it was a lot nearer than the others. “In all future negotiations,” the movement acknowledged, “health care will be the most important thing we fight for.” It narrowly handed 51% to 49%.
The large lack of jobs throughout the pandemic, and the ensuing lack of contributions to SAG-AFTRA’s already ailing Health Plan, compelled its trustees to boost premiums and eligibility thresholds, efficient January 1, 2021. Without the adjustments, trustees mentioned the Plan, going through staggering deficits because of the skyrocketing value of well being care, would have run out of reserves by 2024. Many who attended the membership assembly felt that the nationwide board had not been advised how dire the scenario was in time to deal with it ultimately yr’s contract negotiations. And in December, dissidents led by former SAG president Ed Asner filed an age discrimination lawsuit in opposition to the Plan and its trustees, claiming that the adjustments disproportionately affected older members – a cost the trustees vehemently deny. That dispute is ongoing.
All these points are anticipated to play out once more this summer season when SAG-AFTRA holds what is anticipated to be one other contentious election of nationwide and native officers and board members.
Other subjects of debate on the assembly included: security on units; points with brokers reportedly encouraging members to take non-union work; adjustments to the Health Plan; COBRA for individuals who misplaced their well being advantages; help for performers with disabilities; the union’s new “influencer” settlement; residuals claims, and the advantages for union members contained within the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. An actress who attended the Zoom assembly likened it favorably to a “digital union hall.”