Ken Howard Re-Elected SAG-AFTRA President

Ken Howard has been re-elected as SAG-AFTRA president for a two-year term following a spirited challenge by Patricia Richardson with 53.7% of the vote to Richardson’s 46.3%.

But Howard’s running mate, Jenny O’Hara, was defeated by stunt performer Jane Austin for the secretary-treasurer slot as Austin won with 52.7%. Current secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino, who had Howard’s running mate in three previous elections, opted not to seek re-election to the post.

Turnout was just under 22%, a typical rate in elections for the performer union. Of the 139,313 eligible voters mailed ballots  on July 21, a total of 30,263 voted.

Howard, 71, led the moderate Unite for Strength faction that has been in control of the performers union for the past six years. Richardson headed the self-styled progressives of the Membership First faction.

Howard became the 25th and final SAG president in 2009 and was re-elected in 2011 on a platform urging the merger of SAG and AFTRA. He became co-president of the merged SAG-AFTRA in 2012 and won the 2013 election over Esai Morales.

Voting by the union’s members concluded Thursday, a month after ballots went out. Howard attacked Membership First during the campaign, asserting the faction had been ineffective during the 2005-2009 period when it was in power.

“Are you willing to let our union take a step backward?” he asked in his most recent email to members.

“Unite for Strength has brought unity and strength to the bargaining table, and we have delivered what we promised and more.”

He said the faction has been responsible for the merger of SAG and AFTRA; over $800 million in contract gains; faster residuals processing; “significant progress” leading to the merger of the still-separate SAG and AFTRA health plans; and California’s $330 million tax incentive.

Howard’s endorsement list included Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Alec Baldwin, Sally Field and Jeffrey Tambor. Richardson attracted endorsements from Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Nick Nolte, Valerie Harper and Nancy Sinatra.

Richardson, best known as Tim Allen’s co-star on “Home Improvement,” had campaigned on a platform that Howard and his allies had not done enough to achieve better contracts.

She also criticized Unite for Strength for spending lavishly on the New York offices while closing smaller branches, failing to mobilize members in contract negotiations, keeping members in the dark on details of operations, and incorrectly asserting that the separate SAG and AFTRA health and retirement plans are near combining.

Membership First has less than a dozen reps on the 70-seat national board, with 45 of those seats being contested.

SAG-AFTRA politics are dominated by Los Angeles and New York reps as those branches have the lion’s share of members.

Incumbent New York local president Mike Hodge ran unopposed and Maureen Donnelly, Holter Graham, Jim Kerr and Rebecca Damon won VP slots.

Howard said in a statement, “Serving the members of Screen Actors Guild and now SAG-AFTRA has been one of the greatest privileges of my life as an actor. I am honored and grateful to the members for their confidence in our team. From merger to contract gains and beyond, we have together built a strong union that is focused on economic security and opportunity for members. But the fight to protect performers is never over and I am eager to continue it. I thank the members for their support and I’m excited to get back to work.”

Howard, best known for starring in “The White Shadow,” has continued to work while president on such films as Robert Downey Jr.’s “The Judge.”

Austin said in her statement, “The union’s financial well-being is key to its success, and I want to thank the members for entrusting me with this tremendous responsibility. Working with President Howard and the National Board, I am confident we can ensure a strong and secure future for members.”

 

 

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