Thursday, July 23, 2009


July 23, 2009

UFS Announces Ken Howard as Candidate for SAG President

Amy Aquino to run for Secretary-Treasurer,

33 others for Board of Directors on UFS slate

Unite for Strength today announced Ken Howard as its candidate for Screen Actors Guild President, and Amy Aquino as its candidate for Secretary-Treasurer in Guild elections to be held this September. Unite for Strength will also field 33 candidates from the Hollywood Division for seats on the Board of Directors. A current Emmy nominee for HBO’s Grey Gardens, Ken Howard’s career began on stage but has encompassed four decades of starring roles on television and regular feature film work. The Tony and Emmy Award winning actor was elected on the Unite for Strength slate to SAG’s National Board in 2008 and currently chairs the National Seniors committee. Amy Aquino is a veteran performer with a decade of previous Guild service as Vice President and Board member. A graduate of Harvard University and the Yale School of Drama, she’s a ubiquitous television presence who has also worked consistently on stage and in film for over 20 years.

Presidential candidate Ken Howard said: “This election offers members a stark choice between two leadership approaches – attempt to go it alone or unite for strength. From 2005 through 2008, SAG experienced the divisive, go-it-alone approach of Membership First. They went to war with AFTRA, sought to marginalize New York and the branches, and repeatedly alienated other entertainment unions. Under Membership First’s leadership, SAG failed to successfully negotiate a single contract in 2008, which cost our members tens of millions of dollars. To make matters worse, it caused producers to take most new television production to AFTRA, resulting in still more lost work and benefits for SAG members.

“With increasing consolidation of media companies and new technologies transforming our business, we will pay dearly if we’re not smart and strategic about our future. I’m running for president as a Unite for Strength candidate because I believe the only way actors will get our fair share of the pie is if we’re united both internally and with our labor partners. If SAG members elect me and my fellow Unite for Strength candidates, we’ll make a clean break with the divisive leadership approach of Membership First and focus on building maximum unity with AFTRA and other entertainment guilds to give us real power when we sit down to negotiate contracts.”

Amy Aquino said: “The go-it-alone approach has wreaked havoc not only on members’ livelihoods, but on the Guild itself. The actions of Membership First have seriously weakened SAG financially, saddling us with a $6.5 million deficit. Their year-long delay in negotiating the TV/Theatrical contract, their fight with AFTRA, and other reckless decisions have caused deep-rooted fiscal damage. UFS has begun to address this crisis by resolving SAG’s two major contracts and supporting measures to streamline Guild operations. Going forward, we’ll continue to make SAG’s financial health a top priority.”

Unite for Strength board candidate Ned Vaughn said: “The failures of Membership First’s go-it-alone approach are so obvious that even they are now talking about the need to bring SAG and AFTRA actors into one union. Even if they’re sincere, the damage they’ve done to our relationship with AFTRA makes it impossible for them to lead any effort to build unity. As the DGA’s response to Alan Rosenberg’s call for a union summit makes plain, Membership First has a poisonous relationship with other entertainment guilds as well. For SAG members who believe we need stronger alliances with other unions, Unite for Strength is the clear choice in this election.”

The 33 candidates running on the Unite for Strength slate for seats on the national Board of Directors include incumbent Hollywood Division Board members: Vaughn, L. Scott Caldwell, Gabrielle Carteris, Assaf Cohen, Tim DeKay, Dule Hill, Clyde Kusatsu, Marcia Wallace, Doug Savant, William Smitrovich, Richard Speight, and Stacey Travis. Joining them on the slate will be actors Michelle Allsopp, Christian Clemenson, Ellen Crawford, Patrick Fabian, Richard Fancy, Jason George, Clark Gregg, Hill Harper, Gregory Itzin, David Lawrence, Dawnn Lewis, John Carroll Lynch, D.W. Moffett, Jenny O’Hara, Michael O’Keefe, Mandy Steckelberg, Amir Talai, and Nancy Travis, as well as background and motion capture artist Woody Schultz, voice actor Bob Bergen, and stuntman/coordinator Conrad Palmisano.

About Unite for Strength

Unite for Strength was formed last year by Hollywood Screen Actors Guild members concerned that SAG’s leadership was sowing division among performers and isolating the Guild, weakening its position in contract negotiations. Unite for Strength organizers were especially concerned with the Guild’s repeated attacks on AFTRA, which resulted in the two unions negotiating the TV/Theatrical contract separately for the first time in over 25 years. In September 2008, a group of Unite for Strength members ran for the board of directors, with 5 winning election to the National Board and 13 to the Hollywood Division Board.

As board members, they called for a more unifying and strategic leadership approach, but these calls were rejected by Membership First officers and directors. By year’s end, those leaders had failed to successfully negotiate any of SAG’s expired contracts up for renewal in 2008, including the all-important TV/Theatrical contract. With SAG losing new television production to AFTRA and film production slowed due to the lack of a contract, UFS representatives joined with board members from New York and across the country to form a new majority coalition and take control of the TV/Theatrical and Commercials contract negotiations. Working jointly with AFTRA, this coalition led SAG in negotiating a new Commercials contract that was ratified by a landslide 94% vote. Three weeks later, a new TV/Theatrical contract was approved by members nearly 4 to 1 (78%-22%) with a record voting turnout.