With just about a week to go until ballots drop, it's time to let folks know why I am running for the board with the One.Strong.Union. team.
I earned my SAG card back in 1992, after getting cast in a couple of on-camera commercials. Acting was more of a hobby than a profession back then, but the experience was exhilarating. I went off to college, got a degree in Film & Video and found myself employed within the film industry - behind the camera. In 2001, I felt my creative drive kick in and I took a shot at voice overs. Fortunately, before too long I was able to carve out a new lifestyle and work at something for which I had great passion. And my union, SAG, was always there with total support. In 2009, I took part in the Commercials Wages and Working Conditions Committee and found myself on the negotiating team, going up against the monolithic JPC. We won a great contract in a very challenging time. Though approached by members of SAG to continue my service, I was there under the auspices of AFTRA and loyalty told me that is where I should begin. I have been on the NY local board of AFTRA since.
Over the past couple of years I have participated in SAG committee work, and I have always planned to give back to my mother union (the Guild) in an even greater way. As another merger effort mounted, I was asked to be on the New Union Committee - AFTRA's side of the merger committee, which along with SAG's Merger Task Force, makes up the G1. That's when I decided it was time to join SAG's board as well. The only way merger will happen is for both unions to agree on how to come together, and so much of this work is done in the boardroom. For me to be on both boards would help get this most crucial task accomplished.
So here I am.
If I were you, the questions that I would want answered are the following: Why me? Why O.S.U.? Why now? There is so much to say so I am just going to shoot from the hip. First, change is a very fundamental part of life. Whether it's the seasons, the aging process, fluctuations in the markets and our nation's economy, or politics, change happens. It must happen. Life is organic and in constant flux - and for good reason. Because without change, complacency naturally sets in. New faces and new voices are valuable for their much needed fresh perspective, and they bring new energy and the hunger and desire to work hard and get things done.
I know - and am even friendly with - a number of the current USAN leaders. Many of them are nice people. But this isn't about who I like. It's about who can do the best job. It's about who we want to make the choices that will affect tens of thousands of performers and our families. And I assure you that it isn't the current seat holders, at least not as a whole. In fact, if you were a fly on the wall in many of those meetings, you would be unhappy to learn what goes on behind closed doors. It certainly isn't the grand job USAN claims they are doing. No, I haven't been in that room either - not yet. But I have heard, witnessed and verified certain factual details from incumbents who are now on the O.S.U. team, and from other USAN members, past and present.
Keep something in mind while evaluating the current leadership - the one thing USAN themselves keep repeating - they have accomplished things that have gotten us to this point. Perhaps, but what have you done for me lately, USAN? How long are you going to hang your collective hat on the accomplishments of the past? We face an incredibly crucial time RIGHT NOW and the future absolutely depends on our levelheadedness, desire and ability to show up and do what is right.
In addition, despite USAN's begging them not to, five members of USAN have separated from the slate and are running independently with O.S.U. This glaring action cannot be ignored. First, those who left USAN clearly disagree with USAN philosophy. Second, these incumbents are also responsible for the very accomplishments that USAN waves like a banner in the air. But just as USAN has "borrowed" our marketing - from our web address to our platform of transparency - they want to take sole credit for gains that were also achieved by O.S.U. The difference is that when WE talk about the very necessary changes, it's because we are the original authors behind them and are aware of the methods to proactively implement them. USAN has conveniently decided to freshen up their website - after YEARS of dormancy - and in the eleventh hour to parrot our concepts as a reactive copycat tactic to attempt to undermine our campaign. They have felt threatened by our mere existence from day one, and perhaps for good reason. We are not here to form a social club. We want to revamp a dysfunctional process and turn it into nothing short of what it is meant to be - a host for democracy and open, collaborative discourse where real and effective leadership can do what is best for the membership. Period.
This brings to me to another distinction. I believe - and O.S.U. believes - that the Nominating Committee (Nom Com) does not serve a great purpose. In fact, it is actually part of the problem. Keep in mind, I served on this very committee in 2009 and 2010 and just this year came before it AND was chosen by it. Here's how it works: the board selects the Nom Com and the Nom Com essentially selects who will serve on the board! That's not democracy. That's not checks and balances. That's circular, back door politics. And it isn't good. The largest division of our guild - Hollywood - got rid of it, and AFTRA doesn't have one. So why is the New York leadership clinging to it? Because it keeps the party that's in power - in this case, USAN - in power.
Speaking of Hollywood: Ken Howard and Amy Aquino are doing a great job. I am glad that they hold the very significant positions they do. They are effective, they're helping us move toward merger and they're dedicated to the Guild - as a WHOLE. However, with all respect, none of that equates with knowing what is best for NEW YORK. They are 3,000 miles away. They wear LA-tinted glasses, and they believe - right or wrong - that they owe a debt to USAN, the very group that helped get them elected. So while I like them, I respect them and appreciate their service, their recommendation of USAN should not be taken as gospel.
I hope I've explained "Why O.S.U.?" and "Why me?," which leaves "Why now?" The answer is powerfully simple: because this is the most important moment for the Screen Actors Guild since its founding seventy eight years ago. We are creating the successor union that will represent all performers who work in recorded media - now, and for generations to come. USAN wants to encourage you to just, "Get it done. We'll fix it later." Scarier words could not be spoken. Am I pro-merger? 100% YES. I serve on the G1 Merger Committee - of course I am. Is the O.S.U. team pro-merger? Absolutely - every single one. We all believe it's the most important thing we will accomplish on your behalf. But it must be done right. O.S.U. promises to help craft a merger that considers all contracts, cares for all members and ensures the safety of our pension and health funds BEFORE it comes to you on the ballot... not "fix it later."
If we want a merger that will create the strongest new union possible, we must bring to the process the history and knowledge of experienced board members, and the energy and original perspectives that only fresh eyes can provide.
In closing, I want you to vote for me, for Sam Robards for President and for my fellow O.S.U. teammates. BUT much more important than my desire to serve you, what is TRULY the crux of this campaign: the return of democracy to the NY SAG board.
What I really want more than your vote for me, is your vote for what you believe is right. I hope that you will see that they are one and the same. But if they are not, I fully support your desire to vote for anyone. Just get out there and do it! Make a choice, take a stand and go for it. It is your right.
It is the only thing standing between the success of our present and hope for our future, and the dismal possibility of what may come if you don't.