I’m a problem-solver, not a politician. I don’t need to run things, I need to try to fix things that aren’t working as they should. In 2009, I ran for SAG’s Secretary-Treasurer because I believed I could help fix the biggest problem performers faced – our divided, competing unions. I stayed on after merger because I knew I could help get the new union on sound financial footing.
The collaboration with friends, colleagues and our staff was deeply gratifying. We created one union, and stabilized it financially so that this past fiscal year we saw: another unqualified (i.e. squeaky clean) audit; a budget surplus that helps erase our unexpected post-merger deficit; healthy and predictable revenue from dues and initiation fees; and expenses that are largely under control. We’ve even started the process of finding electronic alternatives to our employers’ antiquated paper time-keeping – a goal of mine for over two decades.
In other words, I’ve done what I hoped to as Secretary-Treasurer. So with gratitude for your confidence and support, I’m stepping down. But while that means you won’t be hearing from me again in this capacity, it doesn’t mean I’m disappearing from the union scene.
As a SAG Pension and Health trustee, I’ll push to keep the benefit plans sound, and to put an end to working members missing out on benefits simply because their contributions are split. This has been a delicate and complicated process, but we hope we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
Then, there are contract negotiations. We’ve consistently had the best results negotiating our contracts when there has been regular, meaningful input from the members who work them. That’s the job of our work category committees, such as Background, Voice-Over, Singers, Stunts, etc., where members who actively work an area of a contract collaborate with the staff who service them to identify problem areas and brainstorm solutions.
While a few of these committees have consistently convened, many if not most, rarely meet. The Board needs to charge these committees to fulfill their duty “to assist the National Board of Directors in developing policy recommendations”, especially in the area of contracts. When they don’t meet and do their work, we run the distinct risk that our negotiations miss the mark.
The failure of committees to meet also flies in the face of our commitment to “engage” our members. Having SAG-AFTRA tell you what your union does for you may have value, but it isn’t engagement. Truly engaging a member means giving you ownership of your union’s future; the opportunity and responsibility to use your front-line work experience to help set the union’s direction. That’s why it has been for many – myself included – a direct road to board service and leadership.
New committees will be appointed sometime this fall, but you need to be proactive. Be on the lookout, in the next month or two, for an email blast from the union asking for your interest in service * and respond promptly, as the window may be short.
For those whose work categories don’t have a dedicated committee, such as TV/Theatrical principal performers, I encourage you to start the conversation among yourselves, and bring your thoughts, concerns and ideas to your union any way you can.
SAG-AFTRA starts and ends with us, its members. As long as there are problems to be solved and room for improvement, you can and should be a part of the solution. I hope you will.
* To ensure SAG-AFTRA has your correct contact info, log into (or create) your account at SAGAFTRA.org; go to “My Information” under “Member Services”, and add or edit your email address.