There’s a union election on. And it looks to be as contentious as the last one. But this will be an existential decision for SAG-AFTRA.
“Coward. Gross. Pathetic. Asshole. Should be run out of the union. Liar.” Just some of the attacks that have come my way from the Membership First faction. They’re angry because I say they don’t like the people who came into the union through AFTRA. Well, let’s see.
At the last convention, it was proposed that our broadcast journalists should be recognized for the work they do protecting the 1st amendment. You’d think no one would object. You’d be wrong. Some Membership Firsters did. They didn’t want union broadcast journalists recognized.
Matthew Modine, their presidential candidate, has proposed dropping AFTRA from the union name and going back to the old SAG logo which only represents actors. Another supporter has proposed the same thing. I’d bet the idea is still in their playbook.
Other Membership First leaders have adopted the petty tactic of stylizing the name of the union as “SAGaftra,” putting SAG in upper-case and “aftra” in lower-case as a way to belittle the AFTRA contingent. They’ve never gotten over losing the merger vote.
Every chance they get, Membership Firsters blame everything on AFTRA and the merger… as if they hadn’t run SAG into the ground in 2008, forcing AFTRA to get a separate agreement on contracts they couldn’t get. They want revenge for that. They call us “backstabbers.” I wonder how they’ll treat us if they get control of the national board. What kind of vengeance are they planning?
The outgoing L.A. local president has used the epithet “sick AFTRA” in board meetings. In her rewriting of history, “the only thing wrong with the union is sick AFTRA.” If they get control of the whole union, how will they treat those who came in through AFTRA?
Membership Firsters have complained that SAG-AFTRA is spending too much time and money organizing “small broadcast units,” I.e., radio. Obviously, they’re hostile to radio units being protected by the union.
Membership Firsters repeat the line, “The merger is a done deal.” That’s too pat an answer. It might be nearly impossible to undo the merger (not that they won’t try) but at the very least they want revenge. They blame AFTRA for everything. So what will they do? Increase the dues broadcasters have to pay? Put onerous rules in place that will force some of us out of the union?
(Imagine being a radio broadcaster lucky enough to be in a union shop. But this being such a volatile business, you get laid off. You find work elsewhere, but because not enough radio stations have been unionized, it’s not a SAG-AFTRA shop, so you’re faced with the choice of not working… or leaving the protection of the union. That’s very likely what’s coming if Membership First takes total control.)
And those personal insults I listed at the beginning of this article? They’re nothing compared to what they’ve said about my friends. They’re nothing compared to the hate and vitriol directed at the current national president. It got so bad she got death threats.
The choice is clear for me. I’m voting for the slate that fought to merge the unions, to include broadcasters, and who still fights to protect our interests as much as ALL other members. I’m voting Unite for Strength and USAN Leadership.
To see more about our slate of candidates nationally and in Los Angeles, visit this page.
To see more about the important issues in this election, see this page.
I’ve served three terms on the Los Angeles board. The first two were informative, sometimes fun, got important work done, and sometimes had contentious discussions. The last term under Membership First majority control was absolute chaos. Meetings could run hours over schedule because of nonsense and useless arguing. Leaders on the dais yelled at speakers and interrupted them. Membership Firsters yelled insults and personal attacks across the room. The president of the local used her speaker chair to campaign against national leadership and spewed unfounded accusations. When meetings went to Zoom during the pandemic, it got even worse. MF leaders made faces at speakers, flipped them off, uttered nasty comments with their microphones on. It was toxic, emotionally draining, and something I’d never want to live through again, especially as an unpaid volunteer leader. We MUST put the Los Angeles local back in the hands of adults.
I fully support YVETTE NICOLE BROWN, KATIE VON TILL, and JEFF GARLIN for the leadership positions in Los Angeles. They will not put up with any of the nonsense and chaos that went on the last two years. I support all of the UFS candidates for the local board. It’s the only way to bring sanity back.
I fully support JOY BENEDICT as the absolute best candidate to take my broadcaster seat on the board. She understands the needs of street-level broadcasters from the world of television to the world of radio. Most importantly, she will show up. She’s done remarkable work serving on committees. She knows her stuff and she’ll be there. She won’t just be a representative of celebrities.
If you’re a union member, VOTE. If you’re a union broadcaster, VOTE. If all of us broadcasters vote, we can save the union. You literally cannot afford to sit this one out.