Wednesday, September 2, 2009


(Johnson's actual quotes in RED)

Recently SAG presidential candidate Anne-Marie Johnson sent a letter to Regional Branch Division SAG members, asking for their support of her run for that seat.

Those of us who have served alongside Ms. Johnson take broad and deep exception to this letter, whose words simply do not square with her deeds of the past many years of service to the Hollywood Division — the only Division she really serves.

So Regional Branch national board members, council presidents, council members and members at large analyzed the campaign literature paragraph by paragraph, and responded to it. This, from folks who have had front row seats in the board room and at national meetings nationwide. These Regional Branch Members are rank-and-file “boots on the ground,” and you can trust their observations as astute and accurate.

You’ve read what Hollywood member Anne-Marie Johnson has written to Regional Branch Division members regarding her candidacy for president of Screen Actors Guild.

Now read what Branch members, most of whom serve on the SAG National Board or are Regional Branch presidents, have to say about Ms. Johnson and her claims.

Members from across the country looked at her letter paragraph by paragraph… and their response is revealing! As you read, ask yourself: who do you trust? A Hollywood member who believes Branch performers are “hobbyists” and whose stated claim is to pull all work back to Hollywood — or your fellow Regional Branch Division members, who have observed Ms. Johnson in action for years?

Actions, after all, speak louder than words.

As one of SAG’s presidential candidates, I wanted to personally communicate with you regarding the upcoming election. When elected, I’ll be the national president, representing all SAG members. Not just the members in Hollywood or New York.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•Really? Is that why Ms. Johnson led a movement to force block voting, thereby depriving the Branches of a voice in the TV Theatrical contract negotiations? After all, it was her motion that started the entire debacle resulting in protracted negotiations and a breakdown of relations with AFTRA.
Mary McDonald-Lewis, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Portland

•This is very interesting as Ms. Johnson has nothing but disdain for actors outside of Hollywood. And her faction, Membership First, has done nothing but try to marginalize actors in the Branches.Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•I find that impossible to believe. Ms. Johnson and her Membership First followers have made it clear that they would like nothing better than to close the Branches. She and her followers also consider “runaway production” any work done outside of Los Angeles. Ms. Johnson truly believes we are “hobbyists” who shouldn’t have a say in the contracts or running of the Guild — that’s the job of the “real actors” in Hollywood. How does that make her a national president?Debra Nelson, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Atlanta

•So we should believe Ms. Johnson will be willing to represent, without bias, the MAJORITY of SAG members she essentially sued when the MAJORITY’S elected representatives were forced to take the only option left to them, so the voice of the MAJORITY of members would be heard. Please pardon my skepticism.
Mike Montgomery, Regional Branch Division, President, Nashville

“I don’t know who you people are, and I don’t care who you are. I’m not your friend. I don’t need any more friends. My only concern is Hollywood, and the members here. So I’m not sure what I’m even doing in here. Nothing you say or do is of any concern to me.”
Anne-Marie Johnson, Regional Branch Meeting, National Board Plenary, October 2003

My record with regard to national Guild concerns is clear. As a national board member for over 10 years, I’ve consistently voted in favor of dues waivers requested by our branch board members. I’ve spent many years of my career working outside of Hollywood and know first hand the dearth of SAG covered work in many regions in this country. Especially in Right To Work states, making it even more difficult for SAG members to afford yearly mandatory union expenses.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•I made the presentation to the National Board for the temporary waiver/reduction in dues. All of Membership First, including Ms. Johnson, fought tooth and nail against the waiver. It was only passed because they did not have the majority in the Boardroom at the time. And while she claims to understand the dearth of SAG work in the regions because she worked outside of Hollywood for years, the truth is she “shot on location” outside of Hollywood. That’s far different from living and working in a Branch. In the past she has used this same issue to push the idea of qualified voting. In fact, she and Membership First have consistently argued that National Board members from the Branches were less than worthy of an equal say in the running of the Guild because of the supposed dearth of work we’ve done. Going so far as to hold up what was said to be IMBD printouts from Hollywood Board Members compared to those from RBD Board Members. And Ms. Johnson has exhibited little interest if any in doing a single thing to improve Right to Work markets. I sat on the dais with Cece DuBois to present a report to the National Board on the issues facing Right-To-Work. Anne-Marie sat directly in front of us with a dismissive attitude, laughing, snickering and whispering to Alan Rosenberg the entire time. And don’t forget she and Alan filed a lawsuit against the Guild that originally included me and every other member of the National Board in the Branches she “loves and supports” so much. A lawsuit which is ongoing and costing the members thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Debra Nelson, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Atlanta

•This is very gracious of Ms. Johnson as her real efforts have been about amassing power in Hollywood and trying to dictate terms and railroading committees to her needs. She has also consistently voted against the best interests of SAG members.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•AMJ’s been in the room for ten years, all right. And during that time she has proven herself to be volatile and contemptuous, a power grabber who consistently displays disregard and disrespect for NB members in the Branches.

At one National Board meeting in the recent past, an MF member rose to speak at a mic. The member held in her hand a stack of printouts from the website, IMDB. As this individual moved to the mic, AMJ leaned to the person next to her and said, “Oh, there goes F– F–: watch. This is gonna be great!” The MFer at the mic waved the pages over her head, and proceeded to try and annihilate the RBD reps by claiming the pages proved their status as “hobbyists.”

AMJ feigned outrage from the dais, and – in her pro forma performance – offered up an apology for this “conduct’”… and, “scene.” Seriously. It was all scripted. An act. With MF, and AMJ, it always is.

And it’s interesting that her PR consultant had her list Right to Work as an “issue of concern to her.” Could have been a smart move, but she forgot to tell the PR guy that when the Right to Work presentation was given she sat in the front row and made jokes, whispered about the presentation with the guy next to her, laughed, made catcalls, and was generally obnoxious throughout. And the guy next to her fell asleep. That was Alan Rosenberg. What a pair.
In short, Anne Marie Johnson is an abusive dictator who cares NOTHING for the Branches, but who will say ANYTHING to convince you otherwise so that she can get and stay in control.
Cece DuBois, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Nashville

•Ms. Johnson’s “record… is clear” indeed. She and her Membership First comrades have bullied and belittled Regional Branch representatives relentlessly. As to voting in favor of dues waivers, MF let the RBD know that they fully expected quid pro quo, and that we’d better vote for what “Hollywood” wants next time. And what their Hollywood wants is rarely in the best interest of Branch members. During her visit to my Right-to-Work state, concerns expressed by our members fell on deaf ears.
Suzanne Burkhead, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Dallas-Ft. Worth

As recently as July 2009, I, along with the president, secretary-treasure and 2nd vice president, based on a request from 3rd vice president David Hartley-Margolin, supported a motion delaying the automatic increase in SAG’s initiation fee specifically because of the potential hardship it may cause new joins in our branches.

THE BRANCHES RESPONDHere’s what SAG 3rd VP David Hartley-Margolin, whom Ms. Johnson quotes, has to say about his name being used in her propaganda:
•Anne-Marie has political skills, there’s no doubt about that. She has taken an off-hand inquiry I made to David White at the RBD meeting in Atlanta in June, twisted it carefully so that it appears on its face as being something the RBD was desperate for, and gave a snapshot report of a meeting where the five officers decided to move the concept forward for the entire union, in order to fight off her Hollywood centric image.

Use of my name without notifying me of the intention to do so as a backdoor method of inferring my support of Anne-Marie and the MF slate is not particularly surprising considering the source. Like I said, AMJ has political skills.
David Hartley-Margolin, SAG 3rd VP, Regional Branch Division, Denver

•This is very surprising as building consensus has been the least of priorities for Ms. Johnson. I believe that this was done to appear magnanimous; however the deception is that she and her Membership First faction use this as part of their ammo against the Branches.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

JOHNSON Unlike my opponent Seymour Cassel, I believe a member should have as many opportunities to work SAG jobs, assisted by SAG staff, with strong representation on the national board, wherever they live in this country.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•”Strong representation”? Ms. Johnson actively supported a promoter of Financial Core for the National Board seat in Portland. Is she not aware that Financial Core is one the biggest threats to SAG? Or was she not aware that the person she was campaigning for was a promoter of FC? Either way, it speaks poorly of her as a member, let alone candidate for office.
Robert Blanche, Regional Branch Division, President, Portland

•This is contrary to Ms. Johnson and her Membership First minions’ mantra of everyone outside of Hollywood being “hobbyists” or “pygmies of the entertainment world.” “Strong” representation means running candidates that are proponents for financial core and for consolidating power in Hollywood.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

Unlike my opponent Ken Howard, I was a strong opponent of the 2009 TV/Theatrical Contract for several reasons but most specifically due to the New Media proposals. Those proposals now allow SAG signatory employers to produce non-union work in New Media with budgets $15,000,00 per minute or less. No guaranteed minimums, P & H contributions or residuals. I believe our employers will choose to produce these New Media production in Right To Work states, taking advantage of the ever growing non union talent pool, making our SAG branch members obsolete. I was against the 2009 TV/Theatrical contract because of New Media, loss of the mileage increase and other issues which I believe will harm a disproportionate number of our branch members.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•Ms Johnsons’ opposition to the TV/Theatrical Contract was an exercise in irrational, illogical behavior. There was no way we were going to get a better contract than our sister unions and the war Ms. Johnson and her Membership First minions fought against AFTRA reduced our leverage at the Negotiation table drastically. Ms. Johnson’s adversarial tone helped to create a tense negotiating climate.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•Ann-Marie writes in paragraph 7, “Especially in Right To Work states, making it even more difficult for SAG members to afford yearly mandatory union expenses.” Note her comment on Right to Work in this paragraph is contradicted by her comments in paragraph 5 where she writes “I believe our employers will choose to produce these New Media production in Right To Work states… making our SAG Branch members obsolete.”
•Our members gladly pay dues, with pride in our union, even when there is no work. The issue is initiation fees that are affordable for actors living outside of Hollywood, for whom the opportunity to recoup the initial fee investment is far more difficult.
Art Lynch, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Nevada

•Ms. Johnson’s opposition to the contract, and obstructionist attitude toward making a deal in the first place cost our members millions of dollars in lost work. Our members wanted a deal. Right-to-Work? Please. She’s never offered support of our issues before. Ken Howard understands and supports the needs of the RBD. Ken’s intelligent, measured, and reasoned style is much more conducive to improving conditions within our union and in the industry, rather than Anne-Marie’s confrontational, bullying manner.
Suzanne Burkhead, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Dallas-Ft. Worth

Unlike my opponent Ken Howard, I have never nor will I ever support any motion to institute any form of Qualified/Affected Voting. Any plan of selected qualifications for the right to vote on SAG contracts will greatly impact members living in areas where work is more than sporadic at no fault of our members. Qualified/Affected Voting is an elitist notion that I will not support.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•Ms. Johnson continues to dig up straw man arguments. This is hardly more than an afterthought for Ken Howard and Unite For Strength. And what’s interesting to note is that we already have Qualified Voting in regards to some of our contracts like Animation and Interactive Media.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•Membership First was the group that circulated the idea of Qualified/Affected Voting in hopes of disenfranchising regional members in key contract votes. When MF discovered that Qualified/Affected Voting would also erode their LA power base, including extras, the idea was quickly tabled. Now she wants us to believe that MF never went in that direction. False! She and Alan Rosenberg specifically brought it up at an Atlanta RBD Meeting. Don’t be fooled by her moderate posturing during this election, she has repeatedly proven to be harsh and vindictive towards RBD members. It is also interesting to note that regional members have captured a large share of new series and theatrical roles.
With LA production capacity down almost 60%, the old Hollywood system may be gone forever. Now who’s qualified?
Ric Reitz, Regional Branch Division, Atlanta

Unlike my opponent Ken Howard, I am against the use of the Written Assent. I believe it is a flaw in SAG’s constitution and I have joined in a lawsuit against my union to correct what I believe is blatantly unfair. The Written Assent denies the minority a voice in board decisions. From 2005 to 2008, while in the majority, Membership First never used the Written Assent, which would have allowed the majority to take any action, large or small, without the input or objection of the minority. Although Membership First has been accused of wanting to close branch offices, during the years Membership First held the majority on the board, not one single branch office was closed. Just the opposite. In 2007/08, the Guild, under a Membership First majority, with the leadership of Doug Allen, promoted a staff person to Regional Branch Executive Director, added an executive in New Mexico and hired more SAG staff to assist our members in New Orleans, Dallas, Philadelphia, Las Vegas and Miami.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•Ms. Johnson Has cost SAG members an extraordinary amount of money to defend the lawsuit she filed, and has refused to drop though the courts have dismissed it repeatedly. No one wanted to resort to Written Assent, but as the court has repeatedly ruled it is fully within legal boundaries. As we can see from this latest statement, Ms. Johnson still refuses to accept the facts and plans to continue fleecing the membership. The truth is that Membership First never needed to use Written Assent, because other parties succumbed to the will of the body. MF turned to obstructionist politics once they lost the majority, forcing Written Assent. As for closing of the Branches, it was too late; contrary to Ms. Johnson’s assertion, Branches that had not already lost brick and mortar did lose funding for the joint offices, leaving AFTRA to go it alone in branches that had been shared.
Robert Blanche, Regional Branch Division, President, Portland

•What Ms. Johnson leaves out here is that the motion which was ultimately passed by written assent was brought to a National Board Meeting on January 12, 2009. That meeting was filibustered by Ms. Johnson and her Membership First cohorts. The meeting lasted 28+ hours, during which time the minority, Membership First, had 28 continuous hours of “input and objection” to the motion on the floor.

The reason written assent was never used by Membership First when they were in the majority is that the minority never filibustered a meeting, thereby preventing the business of the Guild from being completed. The Membership First filibuster of January 12/13, 2009 resulted in no Board business being completed – other than the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag – costing the Guild many thousands of dollars.

If Ms. Johnson believes this provision in the Constitution to be “flawed,” then there are built in democratic processes she could utilize to correct the perceived flaw. A lawsuit is not the answer.
Kathryn Howell, Regional Branch Division, San Francisco Branch President

•This would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. Ms. Johnson’s club, Membership First, is actually running candidates of their own in Philadelphia as well as other Branches right now. Their candidates? In Portland, it was a pro Financial Core actor living 5 hours from Portland with no idea of the market or its challenges. In Philly, MF found a candidate after promising career advancement to him. In San Diego, Ms. Johnson herself is funding the campaign of the MF candidate. Their choices in other Branches are equally stellar, and all with one goal: to shift all power to Hollywood, and close the Branches down. No wonder they want SAG staff in the regions: to help pack up the files and turn off the phone.
Mary McDonald-Lewis, National Board Member, Portland

•The use of Written Assent was a last resort due to the unparalleled filibuster proliferated by Ms. Johnson and her Membership First faction. The damage and cost done to the Guild by the machinations of Ms. Johnson, Membership First and their puppet mouthpiece Doug Allen had to be stopped for the greater good.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•The truth is that Las Vegas did not add a staff person. For one we are the Nevada Branch and not Las Vegas Branch, and our executive was based in Los Angeles serving Nevada and San Diego. Under pressure from the Nevada Branch, from our Nevada Branch executive, National Executive Director Linda Dowell and under promises made under Bob Pisano and David White years before, an executive position was transferred to Las Vegas to serve both Nevada and San Diego. She did not even get our branch name correct. Our executive does not have a secretary, there is no actual branch office outside of his home, and the number of Regional Branch staff has been reduced.

The office is something Nevada membership has been vocal for since our office with a staff of three was shut down. Our members being the squeaky wheel had more to do with the change than anything else. Ann Marie did not contact any of the Nevada SAG officers or council to talk about our executive or office.
Art Lynch, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Nevada

I take my SAG board obligations seriously. Unlike my opponent Ken Howard, my over 10 years of board meeting attendance records are irreproachable. Just in the past year there have been 10 Hollywood Division board meetings. I attended and chaired ALL 10. Mr. Howard attended ONLY 2. In the past year SAG has held 9 national board meetings. I attended ALL 9. Mr. Howard attended ONLY 3.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•Ken Howard was on the East Coast for 6 months doing a play. Not just any play, but an award winning, critically acclaimed one-man show. A little hard to replace him for that. However, he made sure he secured an alternate at all times to be seated in the room. Though working, he received all the information about what transpired during those meetings. Ms. Johnson insults the Branches regularly claiming we are not working actors, and then chastises Mr. Howard for being just that.
Mary McDonald-Lewis, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Portland

•Ms. Johnson is obsessed with her SAG obligations, plain and simple. At the expense of her acting career. Mr. Howard was unable to attend these meetings due to work, which is why there are provisions for Alternates.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

The Screen Actors Guild is a labor union and needs to be lead like one. I have the experience and union know-how to serve SAG members with insight and determination. With the patience and desire to truly listen to all members’ concerns, I am willing and able to proudly serve as your next president. Both Connie Stevens, SAG Secretary-Treasurer candidate, and I would appreciate your support.

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•As a result of Ms. Johnson’s actions, board members incur the personal expense of error and omission insurance since you sue those have differing views than yours; according to the “press” you (Membership First) were part of a Board meeting filibuster that precluded accomplishment of Guild business…is that how you’d lead?
Steve Fried, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Arizona

•Patience is not in Ms. Johnson’s vernacular. I have seen nothing but impatience from her on the dais and while I agree that the Screen Actors Guild is a labor union, having maniacal, obsessive leadership is not productive in the least.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•SAG is a labor union, and as a labor union should strive for peace with its fellow unions, not war. The aggressive Anti-Phase One campaign, led by Ms. Johnson, was a key cause in the breakdown of our TV-Theatrical contract negotiations, costing YOU millions of dollars.
Mary McDonald-Lewis, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Portland

•Patience is not something I have observed in the boardroom. Anne-Marie has shouted down or shut down objections to the Towers-Perrin report (a report that resulted in a reduction of Branch voices within the union). She shut down all debate and was a strong part of why no Guild Business was conducted during the 28-hour consecutive board meeting. That meeting resulted in the Branches, New York, Hollywood moderates and some stalwart Hollywood Independents taking drastic action because we were not allowed to debate, or vote on issues in the boardroom under Anne-Marie and Membership First. We were shut out of the democratic process.
I sat behind Anne-Marie during a debate over Towers-Perin and the restructuring of the Guild to its current governmental organization. I recall she insisted that minority representation would not suffer if we moved to proportionate voting and a smaller board. In fact the reverse has been true, initially with reduced African American presence and Native Americans on a board that had previously served those populations. The number of voices for the Branches and New York were also greatly reduced and a complicated weighted voting system initiated under a plan she backed and which eventually passed.
Art Lynch, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Nevada

•Any real supporter of the labor movement understands that trying to weaken one labor union ultimately weakens all of us. Ms. Johnson supported the anti-AFTRA campaign and has continued to disparage our sister union.
Suzanne Burkhead, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Dallas-Ft. Worth

•Anne-Marie Johnson writes how she will lead, but she has already shown us how she will lead. Her previous actions tell all. Eight expired contracts, filibuster to stop the business of the National Board, disparaging remarks against other unions, disparaging remarks about actors in the Branches, and a lawsuit against her own union that she will not drop even though it has been denied in two courts. Her leadership has wasted members’ dues money and created job loss. She has shown us how she will lead. So do not be fooled by her words here. Anne-Marie Johnson only wants to serve Anne-Marie Johnson.
Laura Kenny, Regional Branch Division, Council Member, Seattle

•Ms. Johnson will listen to her own “Insight and determination,” the former of which is lacking member input, and the latter, which is in overdrive. She has refused to listen to the fact that 78% of the voting members disagreed with her and voted for the TV/Theatrical agreement. In fact, she continues to decry the agreement when it was overwhelmingly ratified, indicating how out of touch she is with SAG members across the nation as well as in her own Hollywood Branch.
Robert Blanche, Regional Branch Division, President, Portland

For more information about my union experience and my plans to make the Screen Actors Guild an even stronger labor union, including uniting all actors-performers under one roof, please visit

THE BRANCHES RESPONDLet’s let Ms. Johnson define just what she means by “all actors under one roof.” Here’s a transcript of a taped talk she gave at a members’ meeting in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2009. Thanks to member Barry Stoltz for providing it.

Question from an Atlanta member: What is the biggest problem that you personally see with us merging? Why can’t we do it? I’m terribly na├»ve.
Anne-Marie: I can tell you what the problem is. I believe all actors should be under one roof and one roof only. I do not want broadcasters under that roof. There’s your answer.
Mike: But what… I think his question was what’s the obstacle?
Anne-Marie: To me, you asked me about merger, I want all actors under one umbrella.
Mike: But I think his question was what do you think the obstacle is to that happening?
Anne-Marie: There are many obstacles, but you asked me… In my opinion, I want all actors under one roof and not broadcasters.
Barry Stoltz, Regional Branch Division, Council Member, Atlanta

•Anne-Marie’s plan for “uniting all actors-performers under one roof” faces serous challenges under Federal Labor Law and in the clear raiding of other unions’ jurisdictions.
Art Lynch, SAG National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Nevada

•Ms. Johnson’s “all actors under one roof” is not an indication of her desire to merge SAG and AFTRA, as it is a form of hostile takeover, and it will not work, especially since MF’s aggressive approach toward AFTRA contributed to a breakdown in relations between the unions, which ultimately strengthened AFTRA in primetime and episodic television and caused the unions to negotiate separately. Instead of aggressively organizing work for members as the jurisdictional battle heated up, AMJ, MF and Doug Allen chose to expend energy trying to stop AFTRA from organizing, which proved to be an incredibly poor tactic. We don’t need more of that kind of thinking and waste of effort, the kind Ms. Johnson and Membership First have been promoting as long I’ve been on SAG’s political scene.
Robert Blanche, Regional Branch Division, President, Portland

•Ms. Johnson’s “union” experience includes a standing lawsuit against the Screen Actors Guild, warring with a sister union, disparaging comments, marginalizing union members outside of Hollywood, spending member’s dues to fund opposition to a sister union’s contract. Ms. Johnson is very skilled in Robert’s Rules of Order and increasingly finds ways to bend them to her will.
Rik Deskin, Regional Branch Division, President, Seattle

•I’ll tell you about Anne-Marie’s “plans.” She offered to chair a Task Force to investigate “acquiring” AFTRA actors. AFTRA has made it clear that it is not interested in any of her “plans.” Ken Howard and Amy Aquino can deliver the solidarity that we so desperately need, especially in these challenging times.
Suzanne Burkhead, National Board Member, Regional Branch Division, Dallas-Ft. Worth

•For information you can trust about Ms. Johnson’s real agenda, visit , , and
Mary McDonald-Lewis, SAG National Board Member, Portland


Anne-Marie Johnson

THE BRANCHES RESPOND•Sincerely? I don’t think so. Does Ms. Johnson, who sits on SAG’s National Communication Committee and on the Editorial Subcommittee for Screen Actor Magazine, know that the words “Branch” and “Branches” are always to be capitalized, according to the Guild’s Manual of Style? If Ms. Johnson doesn’t respect the name of the Regional Branch Division, what makes you think she respects the Branch members who make it up?
Mary McDonald-Lewis, SAG National Board Member, Portland

THE FINAL WORD Since Anne-Marie is so proud of her political party Membership First, we’ll let Johnson supporter and card-carrying MFer Ed Asner have the last word on how Ms. Johnson’s group really feels about the Branches.
“We are surrounded by the pygmies of the entertainment world. We’re surrounded by AFTRA. We’re surrounded by NY, and its little people branches.” — Ed Asner, in a speech delivered in Griffith Park, 5/17/09