Ken Howard Seeking To Remain SAG-AFTRA President (EXCLUSIVE)

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Ballots going out on July 16

SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard will seek a two-year term as president of the year-old performers union, which will hold its first election in July and August.

“It seems like the best thing to finish the work during this transition period,” he told Variety. “I’ve been very pleased with how the  merger has gone so far.”

Howard and Roberta Reardon have been co-presidents of SAG-AFTRA since March, 2012, when members approved the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Howard said that Reardon will not be seeking the presidency. The deadline for filing nominating petitions is Friday.

Howard was the final SAG president while Reardon was the final AFTRA president. Both campaigned avidly for the merger and stressed pragmatism, asserting that the combination of the unions would give the new entity more bargaining strength and represent a first step toward merging the SAG and AFTRA health and retirement plans.

Howard said the union will need to begin its “wages and working conditions” process soon to formulate proposals for its master contract covering feature films and primetime TV, which expires on June 30, 2014. Dates for those negotiations have not been set.

Howard was first elected as SAG’s 25th president in 2009, a few weeks after winning a supporting actor Emmy for “Grey Gardens.” He has continued to work, appearing as Atty. General Harlan F. Stone in “J. Edgar,” a recurring role on “30 Rock” and opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the upcoming legal drama “The Judge.”

SAG-AFTRA members ratified a three-year commercials contract last month with 96% support among the 13% of the members who voted. It was the first major successor agreement to go into effect under the merger and covers about  $1 billion in annual earnings.

The SAG-AFTRA national board is currently at 110 members as a result of combining the SAG and AFTRA boards as part of the merger agreement. The elections are the first step toward a “permanent governance structure” with 70 board seats allotted for the 25 locals with Los Angeles having 28 seats and New York with 16. A total of 10 national officers will also serve on the SAG-AFTRA national board bringing its total size to 80.

Ballots for the national, Los Angeles and New York elections will go out July 16 with an Aug. 15 deadline for receipt of ballots. Those contests will determine the president, secretary-treasurer and most board members; an exec VP and seven other VPs will be elected at the first SAG-AFTRA convention in late September.

SAG elections were often volatile affairs but the 2011 contest was a mild one as the self-styled progressives in the Membership First faction did not enter a slate after being defeated convincingly by the self-described moderate faction — which avidly pursued merger — in the previous two years.  Howard was re-elected in 2011 when he defeated a trio of relative unknowns with 75% of the 23,459 votes cast with with just over 23% of members voting.

Currently, there are less than 10 Membership First members on the national board, most notably Frances Fisher, Elliott Gould, Ed Harris, Anne-Marie Johnson and Martin Sheen.

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  1. Clear as Day says:

    SAG and AFTRA have been have been fighting for over 50 years. One thing my father taught me was actions speak louder than words, and Ken Howard along with his allies finally got the job done. Full stop.

    I’m glad that I’m not paying two unions to compete with each-other anymore. Thank You, Mr. Howard. You’ve got my vote and those of my family.

  2. Pan says:

    It’s great news for actors that Ken Howard can continue as our President. He’s accomplished so much in such a short period of time. Finally we are on stronger footing than we have been since the advent of cable and home video. We’re larger and leaner and stronger and we are gaining in our bargaining ability as we go forward.. I’ve been a member under ten SAG presidents and now we need Ken to be the first SAG-AFTRA President. The worst thing we can do is go backward.

  3. Sheffield Chastain says:

    I do not envy the undertaking of bringing forth the emergence of this new combined union, but I can think of no better individual to hold the reigns than Mr. Howard. His leadership and experience is unparalleled. He has my vote.

  4. Eve says:

    Thank you, Ken Howard, for throwing your hat in the ring! This is a hard job, and there’s no pay. I applaud all our hard-working union reps.

  5. Rik Deskin says:

    Ken Howard has my vote! I signed his petition and thoroughly support the great work that he and the rest of the team have done so far.

  6. Tom Ligon says:

    To begin with, Ken Howard was not responsible for the Music Video contract, which was negotiated by AFTRA long before the birth of SAG-AFTRA. That contract replaced the old “SAG” Music Video contract which NO PRODUCERS EVER USED.

    The one-year extension to the previous Commercials contract allowed all of the unions’ leadership to be focused on the most progressive action our performers’ unions has taken since their beginnings: Merging into One Union for all performers in front of cameras and behind microphones.

    The grassroots rank-and-file membership stands squarely in support of President Ken Howard. He and the brilliant National Staff that has coalesced around him at SAG-AFTRA are just the right folks to negotiate the next TV/Theatrical contract in 2014.

    The opponents of President Howard are firmly anti-merger dissidents who would pick apart our now-united union and decimate our staff.

  7. .
    My name is Paul Edney. Unlike Ken Howard, I have mounted a grass roots campaign to be the next National President of SAG-AFTRA. I believe I can appeal to the general membership who are often overlooked. For example, when Ken Howard signed the new Music Video contract which excluded background performers. Unlike the previous SAG Music Video contract where a minimum of 21 union background actors per day were required, Ken Howard thought it was okay to throw background actors “under the bus”. Now, Music video producers can hire 100% non-union background (usually at minimum wage) on any SAG-AFTRA signatory Music video production. What were you thinking Ken ?

    And again when the Commercials contract was extended for one year in 2012, Ken Howard signed the contract that had ZERO increase in pay. Plus it was never voted on by the membership. Why wasn’t there a vote Ken ? Although the new Commercials contract passed overwhelmingly, only 13% of the membership voted, compared to 28% last time. This clearly shows that a majority of the general membership has lost interest in the union and its current officers. It’s time to sweep clean the union house and put in place a new team that more directly looks after the membership.

    In 2014, the TV/Theatrical contracts are up for renewal. Ken Howard has clearly shown that he cannot be trusted with such an important task and does not have the interests of the general membership in mind when negotiating union contracts. Do we need another lousy contract like the New Music Video contract? I don’t think so. These are very important contracts and that is why I am running for National President of SAG-AFTRA. I promise to play hardball with the producers in all negotiations on the 2014 TV/Theatrical contracts.

    You can learn more about my candidacy at Thank you.

  8. Veteranof Theboard says:

    It’s too bad Roberta isn’t running for President. She’s been much more effective and stronger than Howard, but he’s the one with name recognition. Hopefully she’ll stay involved in a key position.

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