Unite for Strength endorses upstart faction

Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross, Rob Lowe and Patricia Heaton are among the thesps who have endorsed upstart SAG faction Unite for Strength, which is vying against incumbent group Membership First in the upcoming board election.

Unite for Strength is fielding 31 candidates for the 33 open slots (11 board seats plus 22 alternates) for the Hollywood division on the Screen Actors Guild’s national board of directors. Ballots will be sent out to SAG’s 120,000 members on Tuesday, with the vote tabulated on Sept. 18.

Unite for Strength’s platform centers around pushing for a merger with rival thesp union AFTRA in an effort to increase actors’ overall leverage at the negotiating table with the major studios.

Membership First, which currently dominates the Hollywood board seats, engaged in a public fight with AFTRA this summer over the primetime contract agreement AFTRA reached with the majors. SAG is in its second month without a current contract and at a negotiations stalemate with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which made its final offer to SAG on June 30.

In announcing its endorsements on Wednesday, Unite for Strength also included a letter penned by supporter Sally Field to the guild’s Hollywood membership that was highly critical of Membership First, which is led by SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg.

“With the most important contract negotiation in years pending, those board members — or more accurately, the overwhelming majority who call themselves ‘Membership First’ — decided to go to war with AFTRA, our sister union,” Field wrote. “So here we are, negotiating on our own with diminished leverage against a united front of media conglomerates. Is this what we want for our future?”

Others giving their thumbs up to Unite for Strength include Lewis Black, Stephen Collins, Tim Daly, Jeff Daniels, Victor Garber, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony LaPaglia, William H. Macy, Gary Sinise and Tony Shalhoub.

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