Monday, August 22, 2011


National Board, 2008-present.
2008 SAG TV/Theatrical Taskforce
2011 Joint SAG/AFTRA TV-Theatrical/Exhibit A Negotiating Committee
2011 Joint SAG/AFTRA TV-Theatrical/Exhibit A Wages & Working Conditions
Stunt and Safety Committee
HealthCare/SafetyNet Committee
National Disciplinary Review Committee - NY Chair

Dear SAG Brothers and Sisters,

My name is Sam Robards. I am a third generation SAG member and have been a working New York actor for thirty years. After three years as a National Board member, I have decided to run for New York President of SAG.

My first year as a National Director was eye opening, to say the least. I lived through the infamous "30-hour board meeting," joined in the Written Assent action that made it possible to replace Doug Allen with the impressive David White, and helped to finally bring home a SAG TV/Theatrical Contract as a member of the SAG TV/Theatrical Task Force. I was encouraged by the progress that we were making. There was the powerful sense that we, as union leaders and members, had turned a corner.

But then I began to notice deeply troubling trends in the SAG NY boardroom.

When I joined the NY board there was a lot of talk about "voting your conscience," and assurances from the leadership that "we listen to everyone." The reality was something quite different. The NY boardroom has become less and less a place where open, considered discussion and debate are encouraged. USAN representatives – those in the majority who control the NY board – seem to enter every discussion with a predetermined agenda and an entrenched and immovable perspective. Far from being an environment where independent thought is welcome, there is no possibility of changing minds or seeking out better solutions. Bloc voting prevails.

This lack of an inclusive process extends beyond the boardroom. It is reflected in our relationship with the members: the information you get is limited and lacks real-time accountability. For instance, almost a year ago we elected a new Pension & Health trustee to represent the NY Division. NY has only four actor trustees representing over 20,000 members. Trusteeships are lifetime appointments. The work of our trustees affects the lives of all working actors and will deeply impact merger.

Do you know who your new trustee is? O.S.U. believes you should.

We are serious about accountability and we intend to keep you apprised of what's happening in the boardroom. We will energize the board by bringing fresh, new initiatives that will provide you with more effective representation and ensure that the new union we'll establish with AFTRA will be focused on all our members' needs. You must be able to trust that your board will do what's in your best interest. I promise you that I, and the entire O.S.U. team, will honor that trust.

The four principles that guide O.S.U.'s approach to service are:


An open board process that allows ALL points of view will prevent past failures from recurring. Insularity and "old school" approaches won't get us to the strong new union all performers deserve. As your president, I will welcome independent, creative thought and I will support original initiatives. I will guide our board conversations rather than dictate them. In Los Angeles, the introduction of new voices through elections at both SAG and AFTRA during the past few years has been instrumental in getting us closer to a successful merger. It's time for NY to follow this promising trend. O.S.U. will ensure that you have the sharpest, most knowledgeable members looking after your interests by making important committee appointments based on meritocracy, not personal loyalties.


O.S.U. will establish a new practice of informing NY members of the progress being made on your behalf after EVERY New York board meeting. You'll hear from us via email and you'll also get NY SAG updates via video. We will also provide the opportunity for any NY member to have their concerns addressed and their ideas heard by speaking directly, in person, with the board. These are just a few of the many O.S.U. communication initiatives that we have planned.


As NY president I will pursue creative approaches to monetizing the ever-increasing slice of the pie that New Media represents. As a member of the AFTRA Exhibit A Negotiating Committee in 2008 and the SAG TV/Theatrical Task Force in 2009, I accepted that in order to complete the negotiations, we needed to give a little on New Media. I did so knowing that these New Media provisions would "sunset" in 2011.

But in 2011 we did not make great strides in New Media, which disappointed me as a member of the negotiating team. There was no effort to reduce streaming windows; no serious consideration given to alternate models for residuals payments, such as percentage-based residuals. I do not believe these concerns have been taken seriously by USAN leadership in New York.

That's why I'm so proud to be running with O.S.U. teammates Justin Barrett, Joe Narciso and Jeff Gurner. These gentlemen are fully conversant in the latest New Media developments and will be valuable leaders in this crucial area as we speed along the information superhighway. There is no one else currently in the NY boardroom who comes close to these three in their knowledge of, and experience with, New Media.

In our rapidly changing world, it's enormously important to maintain a dialogue with SAG performers BETWEEN negotiations. O.S.U. will hold regular Contract Open Houses where the board will hear from performers about their work experiences and their ideas for a future that compensates actors fairly for their work in New Media. If we don't actively engage our members and think outside the box, New Media could be basic cable all over again.

I am 100% committed to merger for all members of both unions. But after hearing some of the language coming from New York SAG Board leaders, I had grave concerns about whether this merger would succeed. I believe our members deserve something better than the "any merger" USAN might be willing to accept. We have the opportunity to create a new union that will not only combine the strengths of SAG and AFTRA, but will establish new standards and practices that will make it possible to serve our members more effectively than either union ever has before. We can make organizing, which should be our number one priority, an integral part of the structure of our new union. We can investigate and create a system of governance and service that considers the disparate needs of our members – this merger must protect and support all of us. We need a merger that not only incorporates all the hard work that has been done thus far, but includes and celebrates the new, energetic, informed points of view that in New York only O.S.U. can bring. Merger is THE critical issue for all of us. We MUST get it right this time. We simply cannot afford to fail.

I considered not running for the NY board this year. I was concerned that the personalization of service, premium on ownership of ideas and political game playing I witnessed left little room to get much good done. I saw qualified, smart, effective board members relegated to the sidelines, while those who "toed the party line" were promoted to leadership positions. But I, and the other four O.S.U. incumbents (Justin Barrett, Andrew Dolan, Joe Narciso and Matt Servitto) decided that we had a responsibility to the membership to stay in the game and improve the quality of service of the NY SAG board. How lucky we all are that five impressive, dedicated members joined us in this challenge – Corey Anker, Kelly Deadmon, Jeff Gurner, Phoebe Jonas and Gy Mirano.

O.S.U. promises to listen to, and really hear, the opinions of everyone, including those with whom we might not agree. If we limit the voices in our most important conversations, we will enter the future hobbled - we will not achieve the best possible new union, and we will fail to move forward into the future.

O.S.U. promises to embrace and defend the one thing that will save us from that failure: unobstructed democracy. That is what O.S.U., and I, will deliver.

Vote ONE.STRONG.UNION. It’s time.

With respect and in solidarity,