Membership First sweeps national seats

A correction was made to this article on Oct. 2, 2006.

Justine Bateman and Elliott Gould led light voting in the Screen Actors Guild’s board election as the activist Membership First faction consolidated its hold on SAG’s board room.

In results announced Thursday evening, Membership First won all 13 national board seats that were up for election in the Hollywood division. As usual in SAG elections, star power ruled with the most recognizable names taking the most votes with Bateman — a newcomer to SAG politics — garnering the most votes, followed by Gould.

That duo was followed by Joanna Cassidy, Robert Hays, Anne-Marie Johnson, Diane Ladd, William Katt, Angel Tompkins, Renee Taylor, George Coe and Anne DeSalvo, who all won three-year terms while Susan Savage was elected to a two-year term and Ron Harper won a one-year term. DeSalvo, Harper, Katt and Savage are newcomers to the board.

The results in Hollywood — which holds the lion’s share of power in SAG with 60% of board seats — amounted to strong endorsement of the leadership of Alan Rosenberg, who headed the Membership First slate a year ago in winning the presidency over Morgan Fairchild and Robert Conrad on the presidency a year ago. Rosenberg campaigned amid promises to take a more aggressive stance on contracts.

Johnson, who heads the Hollywood board as SAG 1st VP, told Daily Variety, “We’re very pleased at the level of support from members.”

In New York, incumbents Paul Christie, Sam Freed and Liz Zazzi won re-election along with newcomer Sharon Washington. In the regional branches, the winners were all incumbents — John Carter Brown (Chicago), David Hartley-Margolin (Colorado), Dave Corey (Florida), Jim Hutchinson (Hawaii), Helen McNutt (Philadelphia), Mary McDonald-Lewis (Portland) and Virginia Hawkins (San Diego).

The results offered no surprises with turnout among the lowest in recent years at 16% in Hollywood and 19% in New York — well below the 27% level of last fall’s voting. Still, studios and nets are certain to be troubled by the growing perception that SAG members have gravitated toward supporting a more militant approach in selecting their leaders over the past two elections and away from a more moderate strategy.

Quieter on the front

Campaigning during the past two months had been particularly quiet, contrasting sharply with the 2005 election when Membership First gained control of the board room, wresting power away from the moderate faction for the first time in four years.

During this campaign, Membership First candidates had touted the four deals made this year on contracts — a commercials contract extension, basic cable and animation residuals and a mobisode pact for “Lost.” And they had stressed such issues as making deals for new technologies, hiring a director of organizing, fighting product placement, seeking a new franchise agreement with agents and resolving jurisdictional disputes with AFTRA.

SAG’s current film-TV contract expires in June 2008. Along with the DGA and WGA, SAG faces a daunting challenge in making deals for an array of new distribution platforms on the Internet and via cellphones.

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