SAG-AFTRA Political Candidate Backs Plan to Sue His Own Union Over Its COVID-19 Work Agreement

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SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer candidate Pete Antico has messaged union members in an attempt to drum up plaintiffs in a potential lawsuit against the labor organization.

Antico, who is aligned with an independent slate of candidates that is challenging Fran Drescher’s Unity ticket, on Thursday sent union members an election campaign message informing them of potential pending litigation against SAG-AFTRA. “Sag-Aftra union members across the country discriminated against and harmed by Sag-Aftra’s Return to Work Agreement are now taking matters into their own hands and are filing a lawsuit against the union to stop the madness,” Antico wrote in the message. The email exhorted members to read a letter from Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids (PERK), a 501(c)3 nonprofit that supported General Hospital star Ingo Rademacher’s COVID-19 vaccine lawsuit against ABC. (An L.A. Superior Court Judge ruled on behalf of ABC in the suit in June.) PERK is “fighting on behalf of union members who want to preserve medical freedom, body autonomy & freedom of choice, an inalienable Human Right,” Antico wrote.

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The PERK letter alleged that the industry’s Return to Work Agreement, a pact agreed to by Hollywood unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that set health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, “subjected our members to invasive testing, masking, being banned from work and in some cases being effectively blacklisted.” The letter further alleges that this year, SAG-AFTRA performers “are again faced with forced masking, additional experimental booster shots and other scientifically unsupported protocols.” After regulating pandemic-era health and safety on sets for around three years, the Return to Work Agreement officially expired on May 12. Even so, the PERK letter states, “many SAG-AFTRA members are still subject to COVID protocols and mandates in order to either audition, be cast, or continue working on a production already in contract.”

The letter requests donations to support this campaign and exhorts members who believe they have been “discriminated against for your sincerely held beliefs or personal health reasons” to reach out to the organization and fill out a survey.

It’s unclear whether there are currently any other members involved in the effort. PERK’s website lists multiple other legal endeavors, which include multiple vaccine-related matters as well as one against a school district in suburban L.A. over its sex-ed curriculum.

SAG-AFTRA declined to comment, as it does not comment on elections.

Antico, a former SAG-AFTRA president candidate, is running alongside SAG-AFTRA president hopeful Maya Gilbert-Dunbar this year. Gilbert-Dunbar, whose husband Rockmond Dunbar sued Disney and 20th Television in 2022 after dismissing him from 911 over his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, stated in an interview in August that her husband’s experience helped inform her political campaign. She is also concerned about the appropriation of union dues and has promised to end the current SAG-AFTRA strike with the help of mediators and potentially national and California politicians. Gilbert-Dunbar’s and Antico’s slate also includes National Board candidates such as Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo), Elliott Gould (Ocean’s Eleven), Dr. Drew (Celebrity Rehab) and Diane Ladd (Chinatown). 

Meanwhile, Fran Drescher’s Unity ticket has aligned two political factions within the union that are usually vehemently at odds, the groups Unite for Strength and Membership First. The Unity slate is running Drescher for union president and incumbent Joely Fisher as secretary-treasurer, while candidates for the union’s National and L.A. Local boards include Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Sheryl Lee Ralph (Abbott Elementary) and Frances Fisher (Titanic).

Election results are set to be tabulated on Friday.

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