Landslide sweep for faction in SAG elections

In a clear endorsement for merger and moderation, Hollywood thesps have given the Unite for Strength faction a landslide victory in Screen Actors Guild board elections.

The self-styled progressives of Membership First lost all 13 of their open seats on the 71-member national board in results announced Thursday evening. Losers included such notable incumbents as Esai Morales, Valerie Harper, Frances Fisher, Nancy Sinatra and former SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg.

Unite for Strength gained control of the board two years ago and has now strengthened its hold to around 70%. Ron Perlman won the most votes with 6,980, followed by Jason George, Gabrielle Carteris, Jeff Garlin, Clyde Kusatsu, Marisol Nichols, Marcia Strassman, Jenny O’Hara, Dawnn Lewis, Clark Gregg and Michael O’Keefe, all for three-year terms. L. Scott Caldwell and D.W. Moffett won one-year terms.

“SAG members have spoken decisively, and what they’re saying couldn’t be more clear — they voted for merger,” said SAG president Ken Howard. “I’m looking forward to working with all the re-elected and newly elected board members, and our partners at AFTRA, to make one union happen.”

Membership First leader Anne-Marie Johnson, who lost out to Howard a year ago, said, “We all have to acknowledge that our message no longer resonated with the members. We wish the winners well. The ball is clearly in their court.”

Turnout was on the light side in the Hollywood voting with 12,211 votes, or 22.4% participation.

The seven-week election campaign was a bruising battle with Unite for Strength receiving endorsements from Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Sigourney Weaver and Sam Worthington. The faction stressed its ongoing commitment to a SAG merger with the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Membership First, which strongly opposed merger votes in 1999 and 2003, asserted during the campaign that it would support a merger only if it excluded AFTRA’s broadcasters, journalists and recording artists.Unite Unite for Strength also emphasized the rancor between SAG and AFTRA during the previous round of contract negotiations, leading to separate negotiations with the majors between the two unions. SAG’s talks were prolonged for more than a year, allowing AFTRA to cut a deal and expand its coverage of primetime skeins that would otherwise likely have been done under SAG contracts.

For its part, Membership First asserted that the moderates had deleveraged SAG’s bargaining position during that round by refusing to ask the members for a strike authorization and then firing Doug Allen from his post as national executive director.

The moderates also won 20 of the next 22 slots Thursday as alternates, with only Morales and Harper garnering seats among the 29 Membership First candidates. Sam Jaeger led the alternates followed by Michael O’Neill, Bill Smitrovich, Ned Vaughn, Christine Lakin, Woody Schultz, Mimi Cozzens, Tara Radcliffe, Patrick Fabian, Donal Logue, Stacey Travis, Morales, Ellen Crawford, Assaf Cohen, Mandy Steckelberg, Conrad E. Palmisano, Michelle Allsopp, Jon Huertas, Harper, Gilles Marini, Sarayu Rao and Bertila Damas.

Membership First was in control of the SAG national board between 2005 and 2008 during the first three years of Rosenberg’s presidency, following a four-year run by the moderates while Melissa Gilbert was in the top slot.

“We still believe in the long run that our positions are going to be proven, but that doesn’t mean much if we don’t have the power right now,” Johnson said.

The moderates continued to dominate in New York, where the pro-merger United Screen Actors Nationwide saw all five USAN incumbents re-elected. In results announced earlier Thursday, winners included New York division president Mike Hodge and Maureen Donnelly, Nancy Giles, Richard Masur and Sue-Anne Morrow. Masur served two terms as SAG prexy between 1995 and 1999.

USAN’s other nine candidates won alternate seats with Manny Alfaro, Dave Bachman, Marc Baron, Justin Barrett, Andrew Dolan, Joe Narciso, Jay Potter, John Rothman and Kevin Scullin. Only one non-USAN candidate was in the running.

New York reps have about 25% of the seats on the 71-member national board. The self-styled progressives have largely disappeared from SAG politics over the past decade.

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