Tuesday, August 16, 2011


By Andrew Dolan, O.S.U. Candidate for
New York Board of the Screen Actors Guild

Truth be told, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Screen Actors Guild issues before the Commercials strike of 2000. I voted casually, usually for friends I recognized. I didn’t follow the issues and didn’t engage or volunteer with committee work.


The strike, which galvanized our community, proved a kind of SAG “orientation” for me. I listened closely at strike headquarters when more experienced actors talked about the Guild, its history, contract negotiations, and previous struggles with management. Thus inspired, as strike captain, I took an almost sadistic pride in signing up for the earliest AM actions. A Coney Island shoot at dawn? I was there with bells and whistles. Literally.


After the strike I volunteered on the Membership Application Review Committee, interviewing non-members who had become eligible for membership in SAG, but who had crossed our picket lines during the strike. It was a committee that doled out punishments, sometimes refusing offenders the ability to call themselves SAG members for years, but it was also a committee that provided an education to actors who often had no understanding of or appreciation for the value of union membership. Then as now, the proliferation of non-union work remains our fiercest challenge. Educating talented non-members on the importance of a union card continues to be a vital part of organizing. It was during the time that I was serving on the MARC that I was first approached to run for the board. I declined because I didn’t feel qualified.


I moved to London for a couple years and was dismayed to find SAG actors, mostly American ex-pats, working off the card under assumed names. I refused to do that, despite push back from casting directors, agents and producers (on both sides of the pond “Pipe down, that’s just the way things are done,” does not resonate with me). Global Rule One is exactly that: a rule. We sink or swim together, everywhere. I steadfastly demanded, and ultimately received, SAG contracts. The lesson learned yet again: fight for what you believe in.

When I returned to New York in ’04, I continued to be approached - for years - about board service. Still, the board members I knew seemed more experienced, had worked more contracts. Finally, last summer, I took an objective look at my qualifications. 16 years of consistent SAG work in NY under almost every contract. 16 years of qualifying for health insurance (sometimes just barely). Vested in the pension plan. Committee service? Check. Union marches and strike action? Double check.  I was ready.

When the Nominating Committee endorsed me, the leadership of USAN (which included the chair and vice chair of the Nom Com) encouraged me to run with them. With the Nom Com endorsement and USAN behind me, the group assured victory was mine, and they were right. That’s the system. And if there’s one thing the USAN team knows and loves, it’s “the system.”


My work on the board has been deliberate, thoughtful, and consistent. I’m more prone to listen than speak. When I do speak, I do so with confidence having weighed the issues judiciously. There are four other board-incumbent, former USAN members running with the O.S.U. team and they’ll attest I haven’t always agreed with them in the boardroom (nor they with each other). We were independent voices then, and we’re independent voices now.

That said, the record will show I most often voted with USAN. So, why the split?
Before I go there, let me say straight away that my decision to run with O.S.U. has nothing to do with personal politics and everything to do with what I believe in my heart is best for membership. I’ve got a lot of friends in USAN and I’ll consider them friends no matter how this election shakes out. I hope they feel the same way.


So… why the split? Because we stand at the precipice of an astonishing, powerful new union which has the potential to improve the lives of middle and working class actors forever; or, frankly, to end in calamity. What will get us to glory? Bold ideas, forward-thinking leadership that’s both experienced and energetic, and open, collaborative discourse with important allies. What won’t? The current boardroom climate: defensive, politically-entrenched old school reactionary thinking that has failed us in the past.

Our goal is to open up the dialogue, bring in some new voices of seriously experienced New York actors who’ve been out here working the contracts for years. We want to rid the boardroom of back room cronyism. We want to lose “the system” that ensures that incumbents, regardless of the quality of their service, are nearly always a shoo-in for election, and that prevents the best and brightest in our community from having a fair chance at service.

Finally, we want to engage all of you in a conversation about who SAG is now, and where we all want to take SAG, as we move toward merger, in the future.

As to our track record (remember, five O.S.U. members are incumbents): the innovative, informed, aggressively pro-active (as opposed to reactive) thinking about New Media that I’ve heard in the NY boardroom is sure not coming from the USAN team. It’s O.S.U., with Sam Robards, Joe Narciso and Justin Barrett leading the way on your behalf. And that’s only the tip of our combined board service these past several years.

Maybe you already know me and/or some of the other O.S.U. candidates. If you don’t, here’s who we are: pro-merger, decent, hardworking, collaborative non-dogmatic independent representatives of this fantastic NY community. What we’re not, regardless of what some running against us claim in their smear politics: selfish, destructive revolutionaries who are patsies to several behind-the-scenes string pullers. If you know ANYTHING about ANY ONE of us, you know that’s bunk. What you won’t see O.S.U. doing: engaging in the same mudslinging. We rely on facts, not disinformation, and trust the membership to know the difference.

I stand proudly with the O.S.U. team because of their boundless optimism and innate commitment to transparency, inclusiveness, fresh ideas and full collaboration with AFTRA and other allies. With your help, we will represent ALL New York performers with passion because the breadth of our experience reflects the diversity of this community.

The time is now. The people are One.Strong.Union. The President is Sam Robards.