Membership First issued the statement Monday, three days after White’s name emerged as a candidate to serve as exec director of NBPA and two days after White told the national board that no final decision has been made.
Membership First took White to task for being involved with the NBPA at the same time that SAG-AFTRA is preparing to negotiate a successor deal to its current contract with production companies, which expires June 30. The faction — which describes itself as progressive — has seen its power erode since 2009 when White’s predecessor was ousted by the national board and again in 2012, when SAG members voted to merge with AFTRA over Membership First’s opposition.
“David White was one of the main architects of the systematic destruction of one of the most respected unions in the world: The Screen Actors Guild,” the statement said. “He used the Guild as a stepping stone to further his profile both financially and professionally, without regard of how his decisions harmed those who paid his lofty salary.”
“Whether he actively petitioned for or was asked to consider the position of the NBPA’s Executive Director, to do so in the midst of SAG-AFTRA’s upcoming television/theatrical contract negotiations, highlights why we voted against his hiring as SAG’s National Executive Director/Negotiator in 2009,” the statement continued. “His consideration of another job, specifically at this crucial time, only illustrates his ego-driven disregard for the union and its members. We wish the union well.”
SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard responded by insulting Membership First, asserting that the faction carries little clout with union’s 160,000 members, and defending White.
“Just as it was with their opposition to merger, Membership First remains out of touch with members,” Howard said. “Executives of David White’s caliber are rare and informed SAG-AFTRA members are thrilled to have David leading the preparations for our upcoming contract talks.”
White’s message to the national board acknowledged that he had discussed the job switch with Howard.
“I recognize that this news and possible transition will prove challenging for all of us,” White said. “I ask that you keep a couple of things in mind as we move through the days and weeks ahead. First, it is premature to assume that news about my candidacy is equivalent to news about my being hired: No decision has yet been made and no official timeline has been set for such a decision.”
White also indicated that SAG-AFTRA would not be hurt should he depart and alluded to upcoming negotiations on a successor deal to the union’s current three-year master contract. SAG-AFTRA has not yet set a start date for talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which serves as the negotiating arm for the companies.
“It is important to remember that unions are about the collective, not about any particular individual, and that SAG-AFTRA has emerged over these past two years in an operationally and financially strong position as a result of the collective work of our members and staff,” White said. “Our preparation for upcoming negotiations will continue as fully and completely as before, and the day-to-day support for our incredibly diverse and talented membership will continue unabated.”
Membership First did not affix any individual signatures to the statement. The faction’s best-known members on the national board are Martin Sheen and Esai Morales, who ran against Howard last year for the presidency.
Yahoo Sports reported Friday that White had emerged as a front-runner to fill the slot vacated a year ago when the players union’s executive committee voted unanimously to fire Billy Hunter.
White became the interim national exec director of SAG in 2009 after the SAG board ousted Doug Allen, a former NFL player, amid frustration over Allen’s failure to reach a deal on SAG’s master contract with production companies.
White was given a three-year contract extension in late 2011 and SAG-AFTRA’s LM-2 filing with the U.S. Dept. of Labor showed that White received a salary of $541,040 plus $34,755 in expenses for the fiscal year ended March 31.