Ken Orsatti, who served as national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild for almost two decades, passed away Aug. 31 at West Hills Hospital in West Hills, Calif. He was 78 years old. According to SAG, he died of pulmonary disease.
Orsatti served as the guild's chief negotiator throughout his tenure as executive director, which lasted from 1981 through 2000. He had worked as a SAG employee since 1961. Among Orsatti's achievements were the many contracts he negotiated, as well as a successful effort to organize the advertising industry in the guild's regional branches. He helped found the SAG Foundation and was a member of its board of directors. He also served as a trustee of SAG's pension and health plans for more than 35 years.
"Ken served this union with loyalty and devotion for nearly 40 years and touched many people in the entertainment-industry labor scene," said SAG president Ken Howard. "He will long be remembered for wholeheartedly working to protect the rights of our members."
"Ken's legacy of service to the guild is tremendous," added current SAG national executive director David White. "The loss of his presence will be felt by all of us, and he will be greatly missed. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Patti, and their sons."
Orsatti began his career in SAG as a Hollywood theatrical business representative. He went on to serve as the guild's Southwest regional director, then Hollywood executive director, then assistant national executive director.
"Ken was a staunch advocate of the rights of all performers and a brilliant negotiator," said Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, national executive director of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. "He was also a true gentleman and always willing to lend a helping hand to educate, support, and encourage his staff colleagues, at all levels, in both performers unions."