SAG-AFTRA's first post-merger national convention kicks off today under the theme “united for our future,” but the four-day event may in fact reveal some divisions within the union’s leadership.
For starters, the executive vice presidency is being contested by two heavyweight contenders in the form of New York Local President Mike Hodge and Gabrielle Carteris, who currently serves on the Los Angeles Local’s board.
Hodge is backed by Ken Howard, the national president, and Clyde Kusatsu, the union’s newly installed L.A. Local president, while Carteris has the backing of SAG‑AFTRA Secretary‑Treasurer Amy Aquino and Roberta Reardon, the union’s former co-president with Howard.
After Carteris announced, "people were surprised that Mike made the choice [to run], but it's a democratic organization," Aquino told Backstage.
Aquino said she endorsed Carteris because she "just makes sense."
"Gabrielle's got a national presence," she said. "She has what it takes to bring this union together. She's the real deal."
Kusatsu declined to comment on the vote, which happens Thursday.
Meanwhile, there are some 35 resolutions delegates are expected to vote on, some of which hit delicate topics. One resolution deals with how background performers enter the union, changing it from the voucher system to 100-days of non-union work. Another deals with whether background performers have a seat on the national board in the same way stunt performers do. Esai Morales, who lost his bid for the unified presidency to Howard, made the board seat an issue during the union’s leadership election this summer.
Other proposals would give the locals more financial autonomy by handing them control over their own budgets and bank accounts. Another would reopen some of the offices closed during the restructuring that sparked protests earlier this year.
Other events will be less controversial for the union’s rank and file. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak on Thursday. On Friday the union will unveil the findings of its first-ever study of sexual orientation and gender identity diversity in the entertainment industry and then hand out its American Scene Awards. For the some 350 delegates there are also panels and workshops throughout the convention, which runs from Thursday through Sunday at the JW Marriott at L.A. Live.
- The Affordable Care Act: Everything you wanted to know … and more!
- Background Actors: E pluribus unum
- Broadcast Personal Services Contracts Primer
- Casting & Auditions: Your Rights and Obligations
- Collective Bargaining in Broadcast Shops
- Commercials 101: The Game Show
- Contracts 101: Overview of the Actor/Performer Collective Bargaining Agreements
- Introduction to the New Media Agreement
- Media Industry Outlook
- New Business Models in the Age of Digital Media
- Presentation of Study: Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Diversity in the Industry
- Public Policy: Making Government Work for SAG-AFTRA members
- Speak Up: Audiobooks Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
- Stuntpersons, Singers and Dancers: Common and Unique Problems
- Agency: State of the Franchise(s)
- Create Your Own Script-to-Screen Program
- Equal Employment Opportunity: Know Your Rights
- Organizing: Ever feel like you’re doing it all wrong? Sharing Lessons from Successful Campaign and Recruitment Strategies
- Play or pause? Take care of your voice; it takes care of you.
- Social Media and IP for Performers