Monday, August 8, 2011

Cynthia Vance, Former NY Board Member and Founder of USAN, Endorses One.Strong.Union.

Why I am voting for One.Strong.Union.

Eleven years ago, a group of passionate, committed and bright actors  - experienced in and outside of the board room, in the booth, on the stage and screen, principal and background - gathered together in my living room to create a movement. We named it "United Screen Actors-Nationwide" or USAN for short. Teamwork was our strength, we planned to bring that strength to the leadership of the New York Screen Actors Guild. It worked beautifully, for many years.

That was then....  I stand convinced that this is not the case now. We need to once again infuse the board with the vibe of teamwork, to embrace a revitalized movement. And on the eve of a new merger attempt, it couldn’t be more timely. It may not be easy to frame a “campaign message” around the value of process, but nothing could be more important and fundamental to a successful and effective union.  Sam Robards and the candidates running as the One.Strong.Union movement clearly stand for that, and that is a good thing.

I’m voting for a process that will ensure that whatever it is: merger, contracts, new media, organizing - that our issues are debated and discussed by people who are experienced in the workplace, who possess a combination of board/committee background with fresh perspectives mixed in for good measure and who all believe that an inclusive diversity of opinion forges better solutions. The 10 candidates of O.S.U. found one another - 5 incumbents who are exasperated at the current lack of democratic process along with 5 newer voices who believe deeply in the value of that process. I have listened to all of them, and have been heard by them as well. Dang, they are smart and thoughtful and talented! Those now seated on the board will be lucky to have them join the ranks.

Why is strengthening the NY board important? New York may be a smaller division than Hollywood, but as a past National Board director (5+ years), I know first hand that our influence CAN make a difference in the direction and power of the Guild as a whole. Without productive discourse and involvement by actors with diverse experience, so many important issues will not have our vital contribution.

Why “rock the boat” now?  Many - actually MOST - of the achievements that the current incumbent leaders running as USAN claim and continue to campaign on occurred in those first several years that our movement took hold. They now stand on the shoulders of those of us who brought many new initiatives to New York SAG members. We were particularly successful in the legislative arena. (While I chaired the NY legislative committee,  we helped put SAG on the New York map, getting our own lobbyist and fighting to get NY’s first dedicated staff member to help us win major accomplishments. These include the NY State Film & Tax Incentives, the Child Performer Protection Act and (with the Actors Fund) the COBRA Healthcare Subsidy.) While it may be flattering that the entrenched USAN leaders continue to tout these wins, it tells me that not enough initiative and creativity is presently encouraged or taking place and there is so much else to do!

For example, remember that one thing that we did NOT put over the top 8 years ago? MERGER - or as it was known then, “Consolidation and Affiliation.” We came so close, but you know what they say about horseshoes and hand grenades.... AFTRA members passed it with votes to spare. The SAG membership, however, fell short of the 60% supermajority needed.

I am concerned that history will repeat itself, and we simply cannot afford for this attempt to fail - either before OR after it is ratified! The National leadership of SAG is hard at work on this, and they need all the able hands they can get. As rank and file members we need a plan that will succeed in ratification as well as in practice.

One.Strong.Union candidates have made it clear that they do not take this new merger effort for granted. They are ready to roll up their sleeves and pitch in - to be part of the TEAM that New York deserves.

To my friends and others who may feel differently about having a choice in this election: isn’t it great that we can have differences and still be respectful? I am voting to support that same kind of democracy within the leadership of our union.  It’s a vital -- and here it is again: PROCESS.

Thank you for listening and I hope you will consider joining this movement and vote for Sam Robards (as President of the New York Division) along with Corey Anker, Justin Barrett, Kelly Deadmon, Andrew Dolan, Jeff Gurner, Phoebe Jonas, Gy Mirano, Joe Narciso, Sam Robards (also for board seat) and Matt Servitto.

Cynthia Vance
Actor (temporarily in parenthood hibernation)
National Board member from 2001-2006, including stints as NY Secretary and National Exec. Committee. And a whole bunch of other committees too...