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

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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