Friday, October 21, 2011

Sweet Dreams and The New "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Phoebe Jonas here, reporting from the front lines of Board Service, making good on One.Strong.Union's promise to deliver transparency and accountability from your Board Members.

Our first Board Meeting of the new term occurred on Monday Oct 3rd. I was wary of the sentiments of those in the room against whom I had campaigned, but on most accounts I was welcomed warmly.

In truth, the meeting felt a little lackluster--Merger is the name of the game (more on that in a minute) and there's a bit of a lame-duck feeling in the room, as if the REAL work can't be done until Merger is achieved, and we're just biding our time until that happens. I hope that that we can function as a proactive and energized board while the G1 attends to the unruly task of shaping--or attempting to shape--Merger. With so few of your board members participating in the G1, there's no reason to be in a "holding pattern."

The approval of NY's local committee chairs, an important event that happens at the beginning of every board term, was mostly achieved by acclamation - in other words by rubber stamp, and with little to no discussion--rather than a roll call. We received a confidential report on the Pension & Health plans from National Executive Director and trustee, David White.

One noteworthy exception to the somnambulant feeling in room (one Board member was actually asleep for most of the meeting) was during the vote for your NEC representatives. The National Executive Committee conducts vital business between the quarterly meetings of the full board. NY has 4 seats on the NEC. As a stand in for the elected board, the NEC should resemble, as closely as possible, the political make-up of the full board. While they were not obligated to do so, it was an opportunity for Hodge and USAN to recognize in their NEC choices that the over-2000 SAG members who voted for OSU deserve representation on this important body.  Instead, the lone OSU supporter on the NEC, who had served on the NEC for many years, was removed from her seat without explanation. I was reminded of Mike Hodge's comment in the latest issue of Backstage-- "I do not believe in being punitive....I don't think that it serves a purpose. I think as long as you show a good-faith effort to do the job at hand, then we can move forward...” I couldn't help but question Hodge and USAN's true intentions in removing the only OSU supporter from the NEC and therefore disenfranchising thousands of SAG members.

But onwards! Next stop, Merger. I don't know about you guys, but this pro-Merger Board Member and dual card-holder is getting a little tired of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy being exposed by our Union's leadership. As in, you don't ask any questions about what Merger is going to look like, and we won't tell you any answers, especially when it comes to our Pension and Health plans! In light of escalating health care costs, unprecedented increases in eligibility and contributions, pending lawsuits and allegations of impropriety, I find it deeply concerning that Members of both AFTRA and SAG boards repeatedly "assure" me that rank and file membership will "simply have to trust us" and that no substantial information on the potential structure of the new union's P&H plans can be provided prior to the referendum.

In other words, you will be asked to put your entire financial future--and that of your family--in the hands of people who are not willing to put that vital information in yours. It's disrespectful, it's dishonest, and it fails to meet the basic fiduciary responsibility of the SAG Board to it's members. As a member of the NY-SAG Board, and as a member of OSU, I will do everything in my power to ensure that your YES vote on Merger stands on the firm foundation of due financial diligence that you deserve. Many of YOU have shared with me the same concern - and I welcome more feedback --  I will make sure you are heard.

SAG will hold a National Board Plenary in Los Angeles this weekend, Oct 22-23. I won't be attending as I am a local board member, not a national board member. One of your OSU representatives will provide you with a full report post-plenary.

Stay informed,
Phoebe Jonas