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Wednesday’s SAG-AFTRA Election to Cap Bitter Battle Between Gabrielle Carteris, Matthew Modine

SAG-AFTRA Election Battle Between Gabrielle Carteris,
Gilbert Flores/Variety/REX/Shutterstock and Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock

One of the most bitter SAG-AFTRA elections in memory concludes Wednesday following strident campaigns by president Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine.

Both have accused the other of multiple violations in the battle for the top slot at the performers union, which has 160,000 members. The fracas has been so heated that turnout may rise above the usual 20% to 30%. Results could be announced by Wednesday afternoon.

Carteris, best known as for her portrayal of the brainy Andrea Zuckerman on “Beverly Hills 90210,” and her allies in the Unite For Strength and United Screen Actors Nationwide have been in control of SAG-AFTRA for a decade. Modine, whose credits include “Full Metal Jacket” and “Stranger Things,” has mounted an aggressive challenge through the Membership First slate.

SAG-AFTRA, WGA and the Directors Guild of America are all heading into what are sure to be complicated master film and TV contract negotiations early next year with the major studios, via the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The SAG-AFTRA and DGA deals expire on June 30 and the WGA deal ends on May 1.

Unite for Strength has traditionally opted for a measured, pragmatic approach that includes keeping details of contract proposals confidential until a tentative deal is reached. Membership First has contended that the union needs to take a more confrontational tack and disclose much more of what it’s attempting to achieve.

Carteris has accused Membership First of costing SAG members $100 million in lost wages and millions more in lawsuit expenses by working to delay votes in 2009 and 2012. She, in turn, has been hit by blistering criticism by Modine allies Rosanna Arquette, Sarah Scott and four others who allege her response to changing the union’s sexual harassment policies was too slow.

There were also dueling threats of suits and countersuits over Carteris’ candidate statement, filed in June, in which she claimed credit for a new SAG-AFTRA deal with Netflix completed in July. Modine has been accused of violating federal labor law after it was revealed three of his campaign videos were made by the for-profit New York Film Academy.

Earlier this month, more than 100 women, including Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Frances Fisher, Diane Ladd and Daphne Zuniga, voiced support for Modine’s campaign for SAG-AFTRA presidency, following a joke he made at a candidates’ meeting that some decried as misogynist.

SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer Jane Austin, who is running as an independent for president, faults both factions and says the parties each want to gain control in the boardroom and have a majority opinion that rules, rather than try to reach consensus.

A variety of high-profile names have come on board Modine’s slate, including Ed Asner, Jennifer Beals, Neve Campbell, Elliott Gould, Rob Schneider and Jonathan Taylor Thomas, along with incumbent national board members Diane Ladd, Martin Sheen, Esai Morales and Patricia Richardson.

Carteris has Camryn Manheim as a running mate for the secretary-treasurer slot. Also seeking national board seats as allies of Carteris: “The Walking Dead” star Michael Cudlitz, “Riverdale” star Marisol Nichols, Patrick Fabian of “Better Call Saul,” Kate Flannery (“The Office”), Yvette Nicole Brown (“Mom”) and incumbent board member Lisa Vidal (“Being Mary Jane”).

Carteris succeeded Ken Howard as president in 2016 after his death. She topped Morales for the post in 2017. Abraham Justice and Queen Alljahye Searles are also seeking the presidency.