×

Connolly takes AFTRA helm

Scott steps down, looks forward to time off

Delegates to the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists have tapped veteran Los Angeles activist John Connolly as prexy to succeed Shelby Scott, who decided not to seek re-election.

About 300 AFTRA delegates, confabbing at the Radisson in St. Paul, Minn., selected Connolly by acclamation during Saturday’s closing session to head the 80,000-member performers union of broadcasters and actors. Scott, a Boston newscaster, had won four consecutive two-year terms but did not signal she would step down until Saturday.

“It was a tough decision to step down because I’ve had a wonderful eight years,” Scott told Daily Variety. “But I’ve spent half of that time on planes. I’ve rarely been able to play any golf, so I’m looking forward to doing that.”

Connolly, who has been national first VP for the last two years and was head of AFTRA’s negotiating team during the recent film-TV contract negotiations, had been rumored as the most likely successor for Scott.

Connolly, an energetic speaker who is never at a loss for words, stressed that he believes Scott has done an exceptional job. “I’ve got insanely huge shoes to fill,” he said. “I am extremely proud to be able to serve as AFTRA’s president. Our union has the broadest jurisdiction of any performers’ union in all the media. With the restructuring of our union and motivated, united leadership, I see only great things in our future.”

Connolly said he will emphasize consensus building within AFTRA; continued efforts to keep AFTRA’s staff organization flexible and quick to respond; expansion of organizing, particularly into digital production; and working with other unions, particularly the Screen Actors Guild.

He pointed out that delegates had taken time during Saturday’s dinner break to participate in an organizing picket line at a local hotel. AFTRA and SAG operate under a two-decade-old “Phase One” agreement providing for joint negotiation of contracts in areas of shared jurisdiction.

However, a merger between the orgs was defeated in early 1999 and the leaders of the unions clashed earlier this year when SAG asked AFTRA to cut the number of reps on its film-TV negotiating committee and AFTRA refused.

Additionally, SAG and AFTRA have not held a “summit meeting” to review jurisdictional questions in two years.

Connolly had been active in SAG politics and the formation of the Performers Alliance, which has advocated a more aggressive bargaining stance, but split from the group in 1998. The Alliance backed current SAG prexy William Daniels in his election two years ago.

Connolly said he will seek to re-start summit meetings with SAG and noted that members of both unions’ negotiating teams had been able to work together effectively during the film-TV contract talks during the spring and summer.

But he said there are no plans to re-launch a merger. “I think we need to let life move on but continue to collaborate closely with members of SAG,” Connolly said.

Connolly also said finances for AFTRA, which has been operating at a deficit, have improved significantly and promised the org will be in the black in its coming fiscal year.

Connolly has been an AFTRA board member for many years and heads the org’s finance committee. He has been a trustee of the Health & Retirement Funds since 1990. TV credits include “Loving,” “As The World Turns,” “General Hospital,” “The Young and the Restless,” “ER,” “The Practice,” “NYPD Blue,” “Any Day Now” and “Sessions,” for which he was nominated for a Cable Ace Award.

Scott will remain as a VP during the term. She is also co-chair of the Trustees of the AFTRA Health & Retirement Funds and AFTRA’s negotiating committee for its Network Code contract, on which negotiations start Oct. 16.

The pact expires Nov. 15. Delegates also named Bob Edwards (Washington/Baltimore), host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” as first VP and Anne Gartlan, prexy of the New York Local, as second VP. Other VPs elected: Susan Boyd (Los Angeles); Dick Kay (Chicago); Belva Davis (San Francisco); David Hartley-Margolin (Denver); Jimmie Wright (Twin Cities); and Dave Corey (Miami). Mitchell McGuire (New York) was tapped as treasurer, and Bernie Alan (Los Angeles) was elected recording secretary.

Delegates also awarded the George Heller Memorial Gold Card to Gotham actress Martha Greenhouse, who served five terms as New York local prexy, and San Francisco attorney Don Tayer, who served as chief executive and legal counsel of AFTRA’s San Francisco Local from 1963 to 1988. AFTRA reps also voted for legal counsel to explore all ways to help Vanessa Leggett, a Houston writer jailed for refusing to turn over research materials.

More Biz

  • Hong Kong Disneyland Remains in the

    Hong Kong Disneyland Remains in the Red but Reduces Losses

    The Hong Kong Disneyland Resort theme park remained in the red for the fourth straight year, but there are signs of improvement. For the financial year to end-September 2018, HKDL reported $769 million (HK$6 billion) of revenue from 6.7 million visitors, an increase of 8%. Net losses fell from $32 million (HK$291 million) to $6.92 [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Good Morning America

    Jussie Smollett Angrily Denies Complicity in Attack

    Attorneys for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett issued a statement Saturday denying that he orchestrated his Jan. 29 assault, and saying he is “angered” and “devastated” by recent developments in the case. Chicago police want to interview Smollett, after learning new evidence from two Nigerian brothers who were released on Friday night. Local media outlets have [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Colin Kaepernick Kneel

    Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid Reach Settlement With NFL

    Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, two football players who alleged the National Football League colluded to oust them from the game after they started kneeling in protest of racial inequality during the playing of the national anthem, have reached a settlement in the matter, according to a statement from the sports organization and lawyers representing [...]

  • R. Kelly

    R. Kelly Could Be in ‘Big Trouble’ Over Alleged New Sex Tape, Attorney Says

    Strong allegations of sexual misconduct have followed R. Kelly for 25 years, but the singer has always managed to slip free. Yet reports that a videotape of him sexually assaulting an underage girl, combined with the outcry surrounding the Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” means that public sentiment, at the very least, is definitely not [...]

  • Christian Bale as Dick Cheney in

    New Media Residuals and Feature Films Contribute to Spike in Writers' Pay

    The outlook for members of the Writers Guild of America has brightened — even amid pervasive uncertainty in the entertainment industry. According to the most recent report to WGA West members, earnings surged 2.8% to $1.41 billion in 2017, thanks mostly to gains in feature films and new-media residuals. Total covered earnings for WGA West [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content