This summer is a time of transition for SAG-AFTRA. The recent election was our first, and I am grateful for the vote of confidence I received from my fellow members. It was interesting to see that members across the country chose leaders from a wide range of backgrounds, with AFTRA and SAG veterans alongside many who were running for the very first time. Having such diversity of experience and interests positions us well to draw on the best of both legacies and apply a fresh perspective to our future.
This election marked the end of joint governance by all former SAG and AFTRA officers and directors, and some of our most important leaders decided to step aside and allow others to carry on in their positions. Two of the most notable are former Co-President Roberta Reardon, whose deep love of labor and understanding of our membership and its needs cleared the path to this monumental accomplishment, and Executive Vice-President Ned Vaughn, whose tireless dedication, brilliant mind and laser focus helped shape both the organization and the winning strategy that brought us to merger. We were extremely lucky to have them both.
The leader whom I will probably miss the most, however, is the man who has been my “fiscal” partner in this journey for the past three years – former Co-Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Kimbrough. Matt and I didn’t simply share a by-line on these quarterly letters; we shared a vision of creating a merged union with the singular goal of doing what is best for our members in today’s media world. Balancing a busy career with his service, Matt was present from intimate 2010 dinner between the four top officers that put the merger wheels in motion, all the way through our national meeting this past July.
Matt’s intelligence, integrity, and remarkable lack of ego or attachment to the past helped us navigate a lot of rough water both during and after the merger process, bringing us to the place where SAG-AFTRA’s auditors issued an unqualified opinion—the best they can offer—on our financials for 2012-13. Given the challenge of combining two very different and entirely separate accounting systems, covering over 30 locals, a result like this in our first fiscal year is a real tribute to all involved. Matt also helped oversee development of our current year’s balanced budget (to which we’re tracking as of our first quarter), and was instrumental in launching our current exploration into innovative approaches to the problem of exponentially increasing numbers of residuals checks.
Matt, Roberta, Ned and myself will continue working together as trustees of the AFTRA and SAG benefits plans to find ways to ensure that members with qualifying earnings will be offered benefits even if those earnings are split between “SAG” and “AFTRA” contracts. And we’ll all be together at SAG-AFTRA’s inaugural convention in a few weeks as well, where delegates from across the country and across categories will come together to begin writing SAG-AFTRA’s next chapter.
While transitions can be challenging, we’re fortunate to have committed leaders like these, who have laid such solid groundwork. It should give us all great faith in our future.