Monday, August 15, 2011


Board member from 2003-2009
Committee Service:
Guild Government Review
Probable Cause
Interactive Media
New Technology
New York Vice Chair of the 2009 Commercials Negotiating Committee
New York Chair of the National Agent Relations Committee.

To My Brothers and Sisters in SAG and AFTRA:
I’m writing this open letter to all those concerned with the pending election for the New York Board of Directors of Screen Actors Guild. I would like to ask for your support for the ONE.STRONG.UNION. candidates, and explain why I support them.

In the recent past, those of us who represented New York and the Branches fought a brutal battle with Hollywood leadership. Outnumbered and outvoted, we tried to save our contracts and our relationship with our agents, rather than succumb to the arrogance of those who suggested in the board room that SAG was better off negotiating alone, better off not giving an inch. We even had to fight with our executive director, who opposed our efforts to restore SAG to sane and sensible governance. We may not have won every one of those battles in the boardroom,  but we fought courageously as USAN. There was a common enemy, and we bonded together. Now, many of those same USAN people who did the heavy lifting, who were in the trenches for that critical fight, are supporting ONE.STRONG.UNION. I’m one of them.

So who are these candidates? Half are incumbents, previously a part of USAN. The other half are an impressive group of performers new to candidacy for the Board of Directors. All of these candidates, experienced and new, are working actors, filled with enthusiasm for merger and ideas for guiding our new union into a better future. The ONE.STRONG.UNION. candidates are bright people whose ideas deserve a hearing. We are faced with challenges that have stymied the union in the past - most important of which is the creation and passage of an intelligent merger plan that will benefit all of SAG and AFTRA's members.

A letter has been circulated, written by a former member of the New York Board of Directors of SAG, suggesting that an election challenge to USAN undermines the goal of uniting with AFTRA. To quote from this letter, “This unity and these goals are now being threatened in New York City.” I disagree with that assessment. How can electing a smart, savvy, extremely pro-merger group of candidates to the NY Board threaten the merger?

But merger isn't our only concern. We need to keep our eye on other areas, as well. For instance, what can be done about the erosion of the commercial market by non-union production? What about New Media? Are you satisfied with the way things are? I’m not. Read the ONE.STRONG.UNION. candidate statements and visit their website: Find out who they are, and what they plan to do.

The new leadership will also discuss what happens to our pension and health plans. There will be a point where the present Trustees will no longer have standing. New Trustees will have to be appointed by our elected leaders. A new organization is being created, and the individuals who will sit on the board will have tasks as difficult as any that have faced the union since its founding more than three quarters of a century ago.

Some have asked, why is this happening now? Why are you trying to change the Board at this critical moment? We must do this now, because IT IS A CRITICAL MOMENT! A new union is about to be formed. The window of opportunity to shape it is occurring, right now. We must have the best and the brightest people in the room when these decisions are made. We must have members who are engaged, concerned, and interested in the outcome. The ONE.STRONG.UNION. candidates are those people. That's why I support O.S.U.

Board service is one of the most challenging things a member can do. It requires energy, intelligence, enthusiasm, and courage. It must not be subject to tenure or entitlement. And the membership has the right and responsibility to choose who should sit on their board.

Please join me in supporting the candidates of ONE.STRONG.UNION. They are the people you want sitting at the table, making the decisions that affect your livelihood.

Thank you,
Ralph Byers