Muffled Voices in SAG

With the Commercial Strike settled, the SAG membership meeting last Thurs., Nov. 9 should have been a joyful experience…sadly, it was not.

The evening started happily as we gave numerous well-deserved standing ovations to our strike leaders who told us that the crisis had been thrust upon us by corporations who had little respect for actors and who thought that they could destroy the union by taking away our voice. That threat, we were assured, was overcome by skillful negotiations and by the dogged persistence of members across the country who walked picket lines for six months demanding to be heard.

It is because our nation gives us the precious gift of free speech that we were allowed to take to the streets to spread our message when most media outlets were closed to us. On Thursday, that gift, that right to speak freely, was denied to members who expressed views unacceptable to the dominant group present. In 20 years of attending SAG meetings, I have never experienced such shouting down of speakers, disregard for parliamentary procedure, and disrespect for elected leaders.

In the recurring tumult, Paul Christie was the only leader who recognized the insidious danger of what was happening and had the courage to tell the shouters that their behavior was "not cool."

Lastly, some of the members who claim to be saving SAG would do well to consider the means they are using to achieve that goal. As we demanded respect from corporations, we must give respect to fellow SAG members even when we do not share their views.

Freedom of speech is not reserved for the picket line. It is an absolute necessity at all times for the life of our union.

Bill McHugh

New York City