Saturday, August 20, 2011


Committee Service:
Commercials Contract W & W and Negotiating Committee-2009
National New Technologies
Internet/New Media Commercials Subcommittee
National Commercial Performers - NY Vice-chair
Commercials Contract Oversight Committee
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I've been on the NY board of Screen Actors Guild for two terms. The learning curve is steep and the time commitment is real.  It's been said before but it bears repeating: anybody who chooses to serve deserves the respect of a grateful membership. And the membership in turn deserves the purest form of democracy we can provide. In the coming election, for the first time in forever, we have the privilege to choose among many different candidates volunteering to serve in the SAG NY division. That cannot, should not ever be characterized as a bad thing for any democratic institution. Informed choice, and respect for another's choice, is at the core of how we govern effectively in a union. It is also the hallmark of a healthy, free society. 
What are the choices we face? Fortunately, there is agreement among ALL candidates that joining forces with AFTRA is essential. But how will our elected leaders approach merger? Will they engage these challenges with transparency, allowing the strongest solutions to rise? I believe that no one – no political party and no individual board member – can single-handedly provide answers. For that matter, no one should be handing us their solutions.  We must devise our future together, through open-minded exploration and full-throated discourse. 
“Why now?” Some have said this is an ill-chosen moment to think outside the box – that New York should stick with the plan and go with whichever candidates the Nominating Committee put out there. It won’t surprise members who’ve known me or my board service to hear that I challenge this orthodoxy. I don’t believe in “doing it the way we’ve always done it,” especially given repeated evidence that such an approach shuts down healthy debate, employs chastisement and secrecy in the name of unity, and cuts off new ideas at the knees, holding our careers back as the industry races forward. The board members we elect this fall will have a profound influence on our careers.  As we enter the merger home stretch we need to support the most courageous and qualified candidates, period. At this point, fealty and politics need to play second fiddle to our jobs.
There is only one moment in time where the constitution of a union is fluid. One moment to get it right.  At this moment we cannot fear our differences of opinion. They are in fact our greatest treasure. As a SAG member, to explore a differing view point is my right.  As one of your elected leaders, it is my job. To me, this is a requirement of a healthy merger process and also the best trajectory for the NY Board. We must practice leadership where every decision is made with dispassionate analysis, and every idea or individual judged on their merits alone. 
I left a board meeting one night last term and decided I had a very different idea of how governance could and should be handled in NY. I had sat through too many meetings where vital committee appointments were made with an utter disregard for the qualifications of the candidates. I had experienced too many times the current majority's disinterest in intelligent discourse and debate. I had witnessed too many bloc votes - had seen board members actually change their votes at the insistence of USAN leaders. My view of how best to represent the members as an elected leader differed so substantially from my USAN colleagues, running with them was out of the question.  
USAN has a goal of each year of occupying every seat on the New York board.  O.S.U. does not share that goal. On the contrary, we believe that only a range of ideas and opinions, in open deliberation, will provide the strongest and wisest solution. If O.S.U.’s goal was to replace USAN, we would have recruited and run 14 candidates. We did not do that, and it was on purpose. The 10 of us found one another (some NY board incumbents, others fresh new independents) and discovered we had similar concerns and a common vision for serving the membership as transparently and effectively as possible. O.S.U is not trying to lock down the NY boardroom. Far from it. We are trying to open it up.  
As regards the NY presidential race, from the moment I walked into the boardroom two years ago, Sam Robards struck me as an ideal candidate for NY leadership. I have served under Mike Hodge and, like many people, I feel he is a thoughtful and dignified man.  Sam Robards is a president. He is an original thinker, a gracious and jocular statesman. He is forthright and his capacity for decisiveness is perfectly balanced with his willingness to hear every concern regardless of the source. He is a true leader and I am proud to stand with him now. 
Now is the moment to choose - choose a strong NY board that will ask the hard questions about your Pension & Health in a new union, the hard questions about the constitution of your new union. Now is the moment to choose a strong NY board that won't play petty politics while fair compensation for new revenue streams hangs in the balance. Choose a strong NY board that brings real work experience into the room. Choose O.S.U.  
The choices we make today determine our relevance in the new century. Nothing less is at stake. As elected leadership we cannot disregard the opinions of those we disagree with, we must engage in informed debate and challenge each other to deliver the very best merger and contract negotiations that we can. And that is what OSU will bring you.  It’s time.
In Solidarity,
Justin Barrett