The controversy has arisen in the wake of a recent campaign claim by Carteris and her allies that presidential candidate Esai Morales had been negligent in his role as first VP of the union’s Los Angeles locale by not attending 33 of 35 board meetings. Morales’ Membership First faction hit back on Aug. 16 by alleging that Carteris had been duplicitous in her behavior by resigning her local seat two years ago — and threatened to make a formal complaint to the U.S. Department of Labor if she does so again.
Both Morales and Carteris, who leads the Unite For Strength slate, are running for national and local offices at the same time. She told Variety that the Membership claim of “election fraud” is not valid.
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“I believe that it’s appropriate to resign from a local seat if you’re also elected to a union-wide national office,” she said. “Representing the needs of a single locale sometimes comes into conflict with effectively representing the entire membership as a top national officer. My work speaks for itself. I show up and I do the work.”
The Membership First complaint asserts that Morales went to as many Los Angeles board meetings as his work schedule would allow, while Carteris simply resigned her seat so that one of her “unelected operatives” could then take her place. At the time, Carteris was already the union’s national executive VP, a post that’s chosen by delegates at the union’s biennial convention.
Carteris was elected by the national board to succeed Ken Howard as president in April 2016, in the wake of his death. Since then, she’s campaigned in favor of unionization of Telemundo employees, the strike against 11 videogame producers, and for the ratification of the successor deal on the master contract covering work in feature film and primetime TV.
“What I’m focused on are the livelihoods of the members,” Carteris said. “I’m proud of what I’ve done. It’s truly an honor to serve as president.”
SAG-AFTRA sent out contract ratification ballots to 144,000 members in the middle of July, then mailed out national ballots a week later. The performers union announced on Aug. 7 that the contract had been ratified; the election results will be announced on Aug. 24.
Carteris added that such a scenario should not take place again.
“I think that we should not have a situation like this in the future in which we are conducting a contract ratification at the same time as a national election,” she noted. “We should be focused on the qualifications of the candidates for the national election.”
Along with Carteris and Morales, independents Pete Antico, Robert B. Martin, Jr., and Marilyn Monrovia are also running for president. The union election also covers election of many of the slots for the 80-seat national board. Carteris heads the moderate-leaning Unite for Strength faction and its allies control the board, while self-styled progressives of Membership First have about a dozen seats.