57 SAG-AFTRA L.A. Members Seek to Fire Exec Director David White

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Fifty-seven Los Angeles SAG-AFTRA members are seeking to dismiss David White, the union’s national executive director since 2009.

The action, approved Sunday in a 57-40 vote at the SAG-AFTRA Local annual meeting, means that the question will go to the union’s national board — where it is highly unlikely to receive any traction. The board gave White a four-year extension to his contract in late 2014.

SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard, a longtime ally of White, brushed off the vote and said the supporters were “out of sync” with the membership.

The vote, which took place during the members-only portion of the meeting, reflects the longstanding divisions between the moderate Unite for Strength faction, which supports White, and the self-styled progressives in the Membership First faction, which has only a dozen of the 80 seats on the board.

The Sunday vote was not presented as being sponsored or tied to Membership First, however. Howard noted in his comments that SAG-AFTRA National Treasurer and Los Angeles president Jane Austin also supports White. Austin is a longtime member of Membership First.

Earlier in the meeting, the union had honored Anne-Marie Johnson and Morgan Fairchild with its Ralph Morgan Award for service — and Johnson had spoken admiringly of former national exec director Doug Allen, who was replaced by White in 2009 after being fired.

In early 2014, White’s name emerged as a candidate for a similar post with the National Basketball Players Assn. but the players union opted to select attorney Michele Roberts for the post. Membership First strongly criticized White for considering the post while the union was in the midst of contract negotiations.

Membership First was strongly opposed to the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA. White campaigned actively for the merger, asserting that the combined union — which has about about 160,000 members — would have more clout and operate more effectively.

About 500 people attended the early part of Sunday’s meeting, which White and Howard did not attend. On Monday, Howard issued a denunciation of those who voted to fire White.

“It’s not just my personal observation from working alongside him but a simple fact that David White is one of the most successful National Executive Directors in our history,” Howard said. “It’s a common thread among thousands of members I’ve spoken with, both here in L.A. and across the country: they are proud of and grateful for David’s remarkable work, including his unparalleled leadership in bringing SAG and AFTRA together.”

“That 57 members have a different opinion and expressed it at the end of a meeting attended by only 100 members – a tiny fraction of one percent of our nearly 160,000 members – isn’t just dramatically out of sync with our membership-at-large and our National Board, but also the reality of his stellar performance. And I know that our executive vice president Gabrielle Carteris and Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin agree with me.”

According to SAG-AFTRA’s most recent LM-2 filing with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, White received a base salary of $600,485 in the fiscal year ended April 30, 2015, along with $31,630 in official disbursements.

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  1. John Henrehan says:

    In my opinion David White has been a visionary executive director for our national union. Finances have stabilized, membership is growing — particularly in Los Angeles, residual checks are going out in record time, and SAG-AFTRA is deftly coping with an ever-changing media landscape. It’s my understanding that it was the COMPANY trustees who delayed the merger of the two health plans. I am a long-time member of Washington Mid-Atlantic, a member of one national committee, and an occasional alternate on the National Board. (John Henrehan)

  2. Pro ActorLife says:

    Members are tired of Howard, White and all of the UFS moderate bulls***. They hijacked a guild that wasn’t broke and BROKE it…with no intention of making it ” one strong union”. They promised more leverage as “oneunion”. Well it’s the producers who got all the leverage because everything middle class actors need to make a living is being stripped away right under our noses and White and the rest of UfS continue to blow smoke up our asses. . So White and all them need to go yesterday!!! They need to change there acronym to Unite For Shafting!!

  3. JP says:

    In defense of Mr O’Hern, he had the guts to stand up and say what many are thinking. There is a growing sense of disenfranchisement in the middle ranks of the Union, if one can still call it that. Split earnings have many otherwise happy actors paying two premiums to cover themselves and their families. Mr White has failed to merge the two plans, so he has failed many members as well and they (the members) have a right to voice their indignation at the meeting. That’s why we have meetings. In fact Mr O’Hern was quiet informative, pointing out the pension plans of the SAGAFTRA employees vs Memperships.

    As far as serving two masters, Mr White’s inability to combine healthcare plans resonates deep within the union and his responsibilities as head of the Union (sorry Mr Howard) are not being met on the healthcare front. Robbing Peter to pay Paul has never made good business sense and not taking responsibility for the two plans actions (SAGAFTRA defers all complaints to the plans reps) does not place Mr White in a good light with many.

    Having worked as an AFL – CIO steel worker in my youth I know what it’s like to have union backing and right now SAGAFTRA is looking more like a corporation than anything else.

  4. Kevin OHern says:

    wowJustwow
    Please identify yourself. Your accusations are slanderous, libalist. You are attacking my character and good name. I would like suggest you to retract your statements or. I will present you with lawsuit.

  5. Kevin OHern says:

    My name is Kevin O’Hern. I am the Guild member who made the motion to fire David White. I am a former SECRETARY TREASURE OF TEAMSTER LOCAL 289, and I am appalled by the actions of the Screen Actors Guild in regards to treatment of its members. I am a Background artist and a dues paying Guild member. I have had many problems with the staff hired to run SAG-AFTRA by the elected officals. There over 600 charges filed at the Labor Board by other disgruntled members that not been address by SAG-AFTRA. I KNOW HOW A REAL GUILD/UNION RUNS AND HOW IT SHOULD TREATS ITS MEMBERS.

  6. Marv McLaughlin says:

    I was also in attendance – and just to be clear – the motion was made by a member not affiliated with any political party – and for anyone to claim otherwise, that it was a Membership First motion – would be making an erroneous and inaccurate statement. And if anyone was in the room, they would know that. The numbers in the room during the Q&A, not including staff, was somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-150 members. A voice-vote was first taken by presiding Hollywood President Jane Austin, who initially ruled the motion out of order, then after a brief discussion, reluctantly allowed it to move forward. The voice-vote was too close to call, so the votes had to be tallied by hand – the count at 57-40 in favor of the motion. There were a number of abstentions – I was sitting with a group who chose not to vote. How many there were – well, your guess is as good as mine. After the motion passed amid a healthy round of applause, the member insisted it be delivered to the Board immediately as he continued to speak past his allotted time – but President Austin would allow no further discussion. It was a silly out-of-the-blue motion by a single disgruntled member – and whether anyone agrees with it or not – or agrees with President Howard railing about “out-of-sync” membership or not – it’s an non-story not worthy of the column inches.

  7. wowJustwow says:

    This is a good article, and points up the anger of a tiny faction of members who are unhappy with their careers, possibly their lives, and seek to blame the union. We are moving on from the factional divisions and focusing on the bottomline – working conditions, wages, changing marketplace, merging the health plans. Aisles have been reached across, and all of us are trying to put the past behind us and focus on the future. We have a phenomenal staff and David White is a stellar and visionary leader – witness the standing ovation given to him at convention by 200 plus delegates from around the country. With the exception of a disgruntled and seriously angry minority, he is a much loved and admired leader of our Union.

  8. I was also there says:

    Howard’s statement that “….at the end of the meeting attended by only 100 members” is not an accurate. Even though only 97 members chose to vote on this motion, there were far more than 100 members still in attendance at the end of the meeting. Most chose to abstain from voting.

  9. I was There says:

    As someone who was there and who’s also been to many of these Hollywood membership meetings, I can confirm that most of those remaining at the end of the meeting seem to be the same angry, low-information people who typically make outrageous motions that are only advisory to the local board.

    I’ve heard David White speak numerous times and he’s one of the smartest, most articulate and flat-out badass people you can imagine leading the union. Those who oppose him are remeniscent of a crowd at a Trump rally. Just plain angry and looking for a target for their angst.

    It’s very telling that even Membership First leaders such as Jane Austin support him. He’s that amazing.

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