You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Matthew Modine Accused of Violating Labor Laws With Campaign Videos

Matthew Modine has been accused by SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris of violating federal laws in his campaign to unseat Carteris.

The production of three campaign videos for Modine by the for-profit New York Film Academy — on whose board Modine sits — has been blasted by Carteris for alleged violations of federal labor law prohibiting union candidates from accepting contributions from any employer.

SAG-AFTRA’s election rules, sent out before every election, say, “The prohibition on employer contributions extends to every employer, regardless of the nature of the business or whether any union represents its employees.”

The NYFA videos were produced at no cost to Modine, who narrated and highlighted the contributions of stunt performers, background performers, singers and dancers. They’ve since been removed from Modine and the NYFA’s website.

“These aren’t just flagrant violations of our union election rules, but of federal labor law as well,” Carteris said. “It says a lot about Mr. Modine and Membership First’s poor decision-making, something we clearly can’t afford in our upcoming contract negotiations.”

Modine’s spokesman Adam Nelson denied the allegations, first reported by the Los Angeles Times,

“The NYFA public service announcements are not campaign videos,” Nelson said. “The NYFA PSAs do not endorse Matthew Modine or any other candidate. The PSAs are non-political, educational and solely promote the importance of stunt performers, singers and dancers and background actors. Matthew Modine fits none of those categories.”

“NYFA exclusively owns and controls the PSAs. NYFA created these PSAs for the purpose of educating the public on these issues,” Nelson said. “Matthew Modine donated his services as a voiceover actor for the PSAs because he strongly believes in them. There is no labor code violation of a candidate making a donation for a public service announcement. Matthew Modine receives no financial benefit from the PSAs.”

Modine is heading the progressive Membership First slate in what’s been a vitriolic campaign. Current secretary-treasurer Jane Austin, Abraham Justice and Queen Alljahye Searles are also running for president of the 160,000-member performers union with results announced Aug. 28.

Michael Wolly, a labor attorney at Zwerdling, Paul, Kahn & Wolly in Washington, D.C., said inclusion of the videos on Modine’s sites appeared to violate federal labor law.

In 2002, the Labor Department forced the Screen Actors Guild to re-run its presidential election after SAG sent out incorrect ballots to New York members. Melissa Gilbert was ultimately ruled the winner of both elections over Valerie Harper. A spokesperson for the Unite For Strength/USAN slate headed by Carteris said that its leaders are “considering our options” about asking the Labor Department to overturn the election results if Carteris does not win.

In another attack on Modine, Carteris ally Dan Navarro, the union’s vice president of recording artists/singers, told Variety that Modine’s use of Nina Simone’s Philips Records recording of “Feeling Good” was probably done without taking out the necessary licenses: a synchronization license for the song and a master use license for the record. He said use of the recording does not constitute “fair use” under copyright law.

Carteris added, “SAG-AFTRA is waging crucial legal fights to protect our members’ right to control their images, and every day we take enforcement actions against those who use our members’ work without authorization. It’s astonishing that Mr. Modine could think others’ work is free for him to use as he likes. That level of flawed judgement and inexperience should worry all of us as members.”

Carteris and her allies have been in control of SAG-AFTRA for a decade. Earlier this week, more than 100 women voiced support for Modine’s campaign for SAG-AFTRA presidency, following a joke he made at a candidates’ meeting that some decried as misogynist.

The Modine supporters, including Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Frances Fisher, Diane Ladd and Daphne Zuniga, said in their statement, “We deplore the politics of personal destruction. As a matter of political discourse, it’s acceptable to argue facts – but it is simply wrong to personally attack and impugn any opponent’s character. We therefore reject, out of hand, in the strongest possible terms, this ugly mischaracterization of Matthew Modine’s words by members of Unite for Strength and their political allies.”

On Aug. 1, Carteris and seven of her supporters threatened via a cease-and-desist letter to file a lawsuit against Mondine and 19 of his allies over allegations of misconduct by Carteris. The letter came in response to attorney Robert Allen accusing Carteris of allegedly using insider information to take credit for SAG-AFTRA’s new deal with Netflix and alleged that she has been using union resources to promote her candidacy via official SAG-AFTRA videos.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Johnnie To Quits Taiwan Golden Horse

    Johnnie To Quits Golden Horse Awards as China Builds Pressure

    Leading Hong Kong film maker Johnnie To has dropped out of the Golden Horse Awards, where he was set to be president of the jury deciding the prize winners. The awards, which take place and are organized from Taiwan, have long been considered the most prestigious prized in Chinese-language cinema. However they are currently under [...]

  • Zeroville

    Film Review: 'Zeroville'

    I’m tired of hearing how some novels are “impossible to adapt.” Balderdash! Just because some books don’t lend themselves to being translated from page to screen doesn’t mean that the attempt ought not to be made. Just ask James Franco, who’s shown a speed freak’s determination to tackle some of the unlikeliest literary adaptations of [...]

  • Red Penguins review

    Toronto Film Review: 'Red Penguins'

    “Red Penguins” is a cautionary tale with particular resonance in the context of our current bizarre intertwining with Russia, the country that interfered in the last U.S. presidential election and is led by the POTUS’ apparent BFF. This wild tale of attempted transnational commerce just after the demise of the USSR in the 1990s chronicles [...]

  • Danny Ramirez'On My Block' TV show

    Danny Ramirez to Star in Film Adaptation of 'Root Letter' Video Game (EXCLUSIVE)

    An English-language film adaptation of Japanese video game “Root Letter,” starring Danny Ramirez, is in production in the U.S. through Akatsuki Entertainment USA. Besides Ramirez (“Top Gun: Maverick,” “Assassination Nation”), the film stars Keana Marie (“Huge in France,” “Live in Pieces”) and Lydia Hearst (“The Haunting of Sharon Tate,” “Z Nation”). With a screenplay by [...]

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Running With the Devil review

    Film Review: 'Running With the Devil'

    A retired Navy SEAL who for a time was a military advisor on the Colombian drug trade, Jason Cabell conceived his first solo feature as writer-director to tell the story of that particular commerce “from the point of view of the drugs.” The result isn’t exactly a docudrama indictment like “Traffic,” a thriller a la [...]

  • Sweetheart review

    Blumhouse's 'Sweetheart' Sets October Digital Release From Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    After making waves at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the Blumhouse project “Sweetheart” is set to hit digital and on demand platforms. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment will offer the film on all major streaming hubs and paid video on demand come Oct. 22, unleashing the creature feature which stars Kiersey Clemons in a harrowing tale [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content