Opponents of the pending SAG-AFTRA merger said Wednesday that they will ask the National Labor Relations Board to oversee the upcoming referendum.
Merger opponents gathered in front of SAG headquarters on Wednesday to reiterate their opposition to the pact.
Former SAG prexy Bill Daniels, current secretary Elliott Gould, “Titanic” thesp Frances Fisher and current treasurer Kent McCord questioned the integrity of the union’s handling of the debate over the referendum.
McCord indicated that he wants to involve the NLRB “to ensure that the rights of our members are upheld” in the voting process. He claimed that Save SAG has been “denied equal access to our members” in providing information about the details and possible negative consequences of the pact, citing lack of cost-free access to SAG member email and phone lists available to the union directors.
McCord categorized the debate as a “free speech issue,” claiming that the use of pollsters by the union has “compromised the right to a secret ballot election” afforded SAG members. He added that this action was “an invasion, and possibly a legal abridgement, of members’ rights.”
Contentious elections are nothing new for SAG. Irregularities during the national board elections of 2001 resulted in a revote.
SAG brass was quick to address the opposition, hosting a press conference in the union office immediately following the rally. National board member Kevin Kilner responded to McCord’s concerns on the infringement of the opposition’s free speech and access to avenues for information distribution.
He noted that “there is no constitutional mandate for funding of a minority viewpoint until 25% of the board members support it,” adding that “all minority board members spoke freely” at meetings discussing the merger. He also dismissed the threat of potential NLRB involvement, predicting that the board would most likely recommend that the union monitor these problems internally.
In her statement, current guild prexy Melissa Gilbert again stressed the need for the merger in the face of industry changes brought about by the rapidly expanding presence of digital artists. She posed the question, “Do we control the change or let the change control us?”
Ballots for the referendum will be distributed to SAG and AFTRA members June 9. Passage requires approval by 60% of the membership of each union.