Martin Sheen Joins Esai Morales’ Slate for SAG-AFTRA (EXCLUSIVE)

Martin Sheen Joins Esai Morales' Slate
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Cassidy, Hauser, Coe, Richardson also on Membership First list

Martin Sheen, Joanna Cassidy, Wings Hauser, George Coe and Patricia Richardson have joined Esai Morales as part of the Membership First slate running for the SAG-AFTRA board.

Variety first reported last week that Morales and current SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard were facing off for the presidency of the performers union. Jane Austin is seeking the secretary-treasurer slot as part of the Membership First slate, which has adopted the slogan “Champions for real change, not pocket change.”

SAG-AFTRA has not yet certified the candidates for the election, which will take place starting July 15. Membership First, which touts itself as progressive, plans to run a slate of 17 candidates.

Morales, a former SAG national board member, told Variety that he was first approached a month ago about making a run after current board member Sheen had turned down the role.

“I’ve subbed for Martin Sheen before — as a replacement on the national board,” he added.

Morales said that he’s become increasingly distressed over the slow payment of residuals, lack of transparency by the union during the recent commercial contracts negotiations, the erosion of standards for middle-class actors and the recent moves to close 10 of the branch offices.

SAG-AFTRA national exec director David White recently told Variety that the average wait for residual checks is now 56 days, an increase of eight days from late 2010 and called that amount of time “unacceptable.”

“SAG-AFTRA has become a very top-down organization,” Morales said. “We need to see the leaders advocate for the non-star actors. Despite the ‘All is Well’ message from the leaders, we are in crisis. I intend to be the triage president of SAG-AFTRA.”

Morales said he’s not going to attack Howard during the campaign but instead offer members support and alternatives amid a toughening landscape for actors.

He noted that his first show business job was as an extra on Howard’s “The White Shadow” before going on to star in “La Bamba” and “NYPD Blue.” Morales has a recurring role on Starz’ “Magic City.”

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.

Austin is a stuntwoman and recently performed in Lionsgate’s “Divergent.” She previously served for a decade as a national board member for SAG and AFTRA.

Morales and Austin admitted that Membership First won’t be able to win enough seats at the election to gain control of the SAG-AFTRA board from the Unite for Strength faction, which first took over the SAG board four years ago and avidly pursued merger.

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.

The self-styled progressives in the Membership First faction did not enter a slate in the final SAG election in 2011 after being defeated convincingly by the self-described moderates of Unite for Strength, who had avidly pursued merger. Membership First lost all 13 of their open seats on the 71-member national board in 2010, including Morales.

Membership First, which strongly opposed merger votes in 1999, 2003 and last year, opposed the merger on the grounds that it would take away SAG’s unique character as an actors union. It asserted during the campaigns that it would support a merger only if it excluded AFTRA’s broadcasters, journalists and recording artists.

Membership First currently has only a handful of reps on the 110-member board including Sheen, Elliott Gould, Anne-Marie Johnson and Scott Bakula.

Morales said the Membership First platform will not include the specific issues raised by the May 24 suit filed by 15 members of SAG-AFTRA — including George Coe and former SAG president Ed Asner — against the union, alleging extensive misconduct in its handling of foreign levies and residuals they are owed.

SAG-AFTRA has denied the allegations, alleging that SAG-AFTRA has improperly withheld funds and stonewalled requests for information about $110 million held in trust by the union. Those funds, the suit alleges, have been collected by the union through foreign collecting societies without authorization or knowledge of union members.

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  1. Clear as a Day, if that is your real name, I will not take back what I said, but I will modify it. There were some who were allowed to keep doing their work on committees, but there were definitely some who were removed as chairs. Two in particular were the people who originally started their committees and ran them quite well, thank you. But they were removed. I was there as an observer the night(s) this happened. So come out of the closet and put your name where your
    mouth is.

    • charity counts says:

      Millie, one chair person was removed (from a the committee she had started) after review of numerous complaints logged by her former L.A. committee members and branches through the years. This included confirmed negligence in properly running her national committee meetings by doing business without a quorum established and various misuses of Roberts Rules of Order. There were also descriptions of L.A. members finding themselves quickly removed by this chair…

    • Zippy says:

      Millie, if that is your real name, I have a question for you and for anyone here who is planning on voting for the MF ticket:
      What has that group ever done that gives us a reason to vote for them?
      I mean we all know that they dragged us into a strike from which the commercial acting community never fully recovered.
      And we all know that they lost us the agency contracts so now you have to sign GSAs and owe monies in perpetuity under a very draconian agreement.
      And we all know that they lost the Interactive contracts when they were in charge of negotiating them.
      We all know that they didn’t sign a single contract while they were in power which has resulted in the loss of untold millions to actors.
      And we also know that they have sued the union so many times and lost that it’s hard to keep count. (By the way, YOUR dues go to pay for those lawsuits. Lawsuits that they keep losing).

      So, I ask you. I ask anyone.

      What the f**k did Membership First EVER do that was good? Please, please, PLEASE tell us why you worship at the altar of all things MF. What have they done that you follow them in such earnest and are so loyal to them?

      Waiting.

  2. Adam Arkin says:

    Thank you, “Clear as Day”, for your cogent summary re the failure of Membership First’s leadership, and their consistent inability to read the will of the very membership they invoke In their name.

  3. Anyone who was against merger or a former member of membership first was either removed from their chairs of committees or not allowed to join any committees.

    • Clear as Day says:

      Millie, the first part of what you said is inaccurate and inflammatory. The second part is just plain not true.

      To your first claim, chairs weren’t “removed” as you say. After each election, the newly reconstituted board votes for new chairs of committees. It’s a democratic vote and majority rules. Since MF held only a few board seats, it should come as no surprise that they weren’t able to secure a significant number of chair positions.

      Your second claim is that those aligned with MF were “not allowed to join any committees” once UFS won the majority of board seats. Really? How do you reconcile that bizarre claim with Mr. Austin’s presence on Communications, Mr. Bakula and Mr. Napier on SAG Awards and Ms. Johnson and Ms. Haru on the G1? Further, one prominent MF leader (who shall remain unnamed to protect his identity) served on the recent Commercial Negotiations Committee. There are many more committees on which MF serve but I believe the point has been made.

      Care to take back your accusations?

  4. JennyO says:

    These last three comments say it all.

  5. Daniel says:

    I find it interesting that although Esai Morales is a Los Angeles Board member, he has not attended a board meeting in over a year(he works a lot, but so do many of our other board members), sits on no committees — I assume that’s why he claims a lack of transparency for a contract that had a three month long W&W, tons of educational meetings both before hand and after. The information was there if one wanted it, but you had take an interest and show up. Oh, and a quarter of a billion dollars is NOT pocket change. I’m interested to see what fixes and alternatives he and his Membership First brethren come up with, as the history of MF’s control of the SAG board was not pretty: not a single contract delivered, a loss of the agency franchise(any actor working under a GSA should take a pause and reflect), a board room that was seething and angry and a very unpleasant place to be. Unite for Strength has brought positive movement, REAL problem solving, diverse viewpoints, and the merger of the unions has set the stage for the merger of the two P&H plans, which is being worked on now.

  6. Scott says:

    I had a long comment in mind but then I read “Clear as Day’s” comment. That sums it up so perfectly! What else can you say? Please everyone, read Clear as Day’s comment!
    These MF’ers – first they practically destroy SAG (while advocating the destruction of AFTRA!), then they sue their own union to try and prevent the membership from voting on merger and now they run for office on a platform of CHANGE?!. The entire time they controlled the union they failed to negotiate a SINGLE CONTRACT! How stupid do they think the membership is? Merger produced the best commercial contract we’ve ever had. I can’t wait for the Theatrical negotiations! I’m voting for Ken and Amy. Thank heaven for UFS, USAN, and the old RBD (now the COL!)

  7. Clear as Day says:

    Martin Sheen is a fantastic actor but he hasn’t been in the board room for quite some time. His anti-merger videos revealed a desire to do good but ultimately a lack of clarity on union matters. How sad to see such a talented and well-meaning actor caught up on the wrong side of history.

    That said, it looks like Membership First is back to its old tricks. It’s as if they operate in a GOP-styled reality defying bubble. Actual facts and history have no bearing whatsoever on the narrative they espouse. Case in point, their latest slogan is, “Champions for real change, not pocket change.”

    Let’s analyze their slogan. They want real change? Funny, they looked to continue and exacerbate the 80 year stalemate and harmful competition between SAG and AFTRA. The real change was Merger. Which they opposed. Fiercely. They intend to pursue “real” change and not pocket change? Well, the recently negotiated Commercials contract brought in an unprecedented quarter of a Billion dollars in raises for actors – a result of performers negotiating as one merged union. A merger they vehemently opposed. How do you reconcile a quarter of a billion dollars as pocket change? Bubble.

    Let’s compare that to the raises that were negotiated on the contracts that Membership First completed. How much of a raise did they obtain? Nada. Zilch. They love to complain and cast stones, but while they were in control of SAG, they didn’t successfully negotiate any of the 8 contracts they should have. That’s not effective leadership, that’s whining.

    Thank goodness that USAN, UFS and RBD – the adults – saved actors from Alan Rosenberg and his Membership First pals.

    Oh, and Membership First is about as “progressive” as Chick-Fil-A.
    Merging SAG and AFTRA was the truly progressive act.
    I’m sticking with the adults, not the stone-throwers.

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