EXCLUSIVE: SAG-AFTRA presidential candidate Patricia Richardson is calling for sweeping changes in the way the union does its business and deals with its diverse membership, vowing to heal the infighting and to take the fight to the producers for better wages and working conditions. Perhaps just as important, she’s calling for greater transparency inside a union that some wags have come to call the Secret Actors Guild.
Running atop her Membership First slate of candidates against incumbent Ken Howard, Richardson said it’s time to put the bickering of the past where it belongs – in the past – and to unite the members around a common goal: to “rebuild a union that better reflects the needs of its members.”
“We need strong leadership that isn’t afraid to speak truth to power and be tenacious in negotiations,” the former Home Improvement star said in an email going out to the entire union membership that lays out her agenda for change. “We want to derive our strength from the support of every member of our now-merged union every time we go to the bargaining table. Please allow us to represent all of you collectively and heal the divisions of the past.”
Vowing to unite the guild’s many factions, Richardson said: “I really respect the work and passion I see in all the political parties, and it grieves me to observe tension and conflict in our organization. There is a lot of history that I am relieved to have missed – so much anger and fear, and people holding on to that history.
She also said, “We hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.” To do that, Richardson laid out six “concrete and achievable” goals she vowed to tackle if elected president:
* Stronger contracts, not just for performers in the SAG legacy contingent of our Union, but, also, for dissatisfied broadcasters and other legacy AFTRA performers.
* Fair residuals that reflect your hard work and right to a living wage.
* A fiscally responsible merger of the Pension and Health plans.
* Enforcement of contracts and a dedicated leadership to hold those who violate them accountable.
* More equality in representation for background actors.
* More regard and support for the local offices.
She noted, for example, that background players do not have a guaranteed seat in the boardroom and that they “actually lost ground in more than one contract in the last negotiations. Naturally, they are angry and don’t want to be ignored.” Richardson said that principal and supporting actors who work under many of the union’s different contracts “feel outnumbered and worry that their voices will be drowned out by the bigger numbers of lesser earning groups.” And broadcasters, she said, “are understandably upset when their crews have better deals than they do.” And “everyone is upset about the non-union work going on and the people in our union who work off card (non-union).”
Merging the union’s pension and health plans is also high on her agenda. “Your health plans and pensions are part and parcel of belonging to a union in the first place,” she wrote. “Although there’s the possibility of a merged health plan, there is no plan in the foreseeable future to merge the pension plans. This means that your earnings and years of work are still being split between SAG and AFTRA. That leaves many of our members falling between the cracks, with insufficient years of work in either plan to be vested.”
In these and other areas — including financial reports, budget decisions and spending on “frivolous things” — she said, “We need more transparency.”
That’s certainly clear!
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
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