SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and challenger Matthew Modine have released dueling videos accusing each other of attempting to mislead the union’s members as they vote in the guild’s ongoing election. Ballots went out on July 29, but Modine’s camp says that “social media is filled with many who have not received their ballots.”
“From the beginning of this campaign, my goal has been to make sure every member of the union is represented with honesty and integrity,” Modine said in his latest video. “Our union’s current leader, Gabrielle Carteris, has been asked a number of legitimate questions that concern the welfare of our members. Instead of answering the questions, she has responded with false and misleading accusations.”
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Modine, who’s running at the head of the opposition faction’s Membership First slate, said he’s “happy to meet with Ms. Carteris in an open forum to discuss these issues because our membership deserves a good-faith conversation and answers to the questions.”
Modine, accusing Carteris of campaigning on “the politics of fear,” acknowledged in his video that he is the underdog. “We know that to succeed in this business, we have to first conquer our fears. When I first announced my candidacy, I was having breakfast in a restaurant and a man sat down at my table and said, ‘You know you’ve already lost. Never forget that this is a multi-billion dollar industry. You think they’re going to allow a man talking about transparency and morals to lead the largest entertainment union in the world? You’re fighting samurai swords with butter knives.’ And then he left. I’ve always loved a good David and Goliath story.” See his video here.
One of the issues he wants to discuss with Carteris is what he views as the guild’s inadequate response to sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Another is what he’s called the “repugnant” disparity in pensions between the union’s members and its staff.
“Well, it’s union election time,” Carteris told members in her video, “which means your email inbox and social media accounts are filling up with all sorts of attacks. Some are blatant attempts to mislead you, and others are desperate attempts to distract you. One of those is Membership First’s attack on the pensions earned by our union’s staff, and it’s right out of their usual playbook. By focusing on an issue that actually has a positive impact for members, they’re hoping to distract you from their terrible record of failures that seriously hurt our union. Our staff pensions help us attract and retain the top talent, who are an essential part of SAG-AFTRA securing the industry-leading contracts you rely on. These are dedicated professionals who work every day to strengthen the working lives of our members, and their contributions are a key reason that earnings under our contract are at an all-time high. And that is not a boast. It’s a simple fact.” See her video here.
Membership First, which opposed SAG’s merger with AFTRA in 2012, was once the guild’s ruling faction. “Membership First is a failed leadership,” Carteris said. “They created a very large and very negative impact. They failed to negotiate numerous contracts, and the failure they most want to distract you from…is their disastrous handling of the TV and theatrical contracts when they were last in charge. They left SAG without TV and theatrical contracts for over a year, resulting in earnings and benefit contribution losses of over $100 million. And those massive losses didn’t just hurt everyone working under those contracts. It also damaged our benefit plans and our union as a whole. So, all these years later, those loses are still being dealt with.”
Carteris, running on the Unite for Strength slate, said “It’s remarkable to me to hear them criticizing out staff, who’ve been an essential part of the many successful and frequently ground-breaking contracts under our leadership. Those contract wins haven’t just provided years of pay increases and improved working conditions across our union. They’ve also put our benefit plans on a more secure footing, thanks to the substantial gains in employer contributions we’ve bargained.”
Membership First, she said, “didn’t just hurt individual members. They damaged our union and endangered our benefits. And for them to attack our staff and elected leaders who cleaned up their mess, and who have consistently taken actions to put our union and our benefit plans on a strong, prosperous path – shame on them. That’s a distraction no one should fall for.”
In an email accompanying her video, she also touted the many other gains achieved during her presidency, including “over $1 billion in game-changing contracts”; the new commercials contract; the new Netflix contract; organizing Telemundo; confronting sexual harassment in the workplace; record high member earnings, and the successful end to the nearly one-year strike against the video game industry; and the 10-month strike against the Bartle Bogle Hegarty ad agency.
Ballots will be counted on Aug. 28. Jane Austin, the union’s current secretary-treasurer, is also running for president as an independent. Two other candidates – Abraham Justice and Queen Alljahye Searles – are also in the race.