Let’s start with this SAG Press Release (Watchdog comments highlighted)
- This will be followed by a letter from Bret Fausett, Mr. Vulich’s attorney.
- Then those e-mails that are freaking out certain sore losers.
SAG PURSUES NINE-COUNT SUIT AGAINST EMPLOYER LINKED TO DISRUPTING UNION VOTE
Individual Admits Involvement; Guild Vows ‘Zero Tolerance’ for Interference in Union Decisions
: What a Manipulative, Misleading Headline! First the statement that “SAG pursuessuit against employer linked to disrupting union vote.” Then they ballyhoo that the “Individual Admits Involvement.” Well first of all, Mr. Vulich is NOT an employer of actors. Mr. Vulich is an Emmy Award winning designer of special make-up effects
But to be fair to David White, SAG General Counsel, who released the SAG press release, I would imagine that Mr. Vulich EMPLOYS an assistant, a staff of technicians– and perhaps even a cleaning lady. So, in SAG’s sharp legal beagle’s eyes, that’s good enough for his misleading headline: “SAG PursuesSuit against EMPLOYER“
Los Angeles (August 9, 2004) Screen Actors Guild (SAG) announced today that the union is engaged in a federal lawsuit against John Vulich, president of Optic Nerve Studios an employer who, after initial denials, has admitted to being the source of numerous unlawful emails designed to inappropriately influence a pivotal union vote. Last week, in the first two major rulings in the case, a federal judge denied attempts by Mr. Vulich to prevent the case from proceeding. Guild attorneys warned that other names may be added to the suit.
As you’ll see Mr. Vulich did nothing nefarious! He simply forwarded legitimate e-mails from SAG leaders who opposed CONsolidation. Hey, I forwarded them and I bet a lot of you did too. Oooooh! Are you beginning to get the message here, folks! Intimidation! If they can get a make-up artist for passing along some legitimate e-mails–then perhaps the next time they go for CONsolidation, a dues increase or whatever, ah you might think twice about getting involved.
“When an employer uses illegal and harassing means to influence a union vote, the fundamental right of our members to self-determination is undermined,” said David White, SAG’s general counsel. “Employers have no business interfering with the rights of working actors to make thecritical decisions of their union. To protect our members and their right to self-governance, SAG has no choice but to pursue this investigation and all legal remedies to the full extent of the law. We are deeply concerned by the pattern of illegal conduct we have uncovered, and we will show zero tolerance.”
Geez these people can’t get anything right! Mr. Vulich is an EMPLOYEEof the Studios, NOTan EMPLOYERof actors. John Vulich heads Optic Nerve Studios where Visual Make-up Effects are created. He’s worked for such shows as “Buffy” and “Angel.” In fact here’s some of his handy work from one of those shows!
Specifically, the charges relate to a series of falsified emails sent to Guild members and staff in advance of last year’s vote on the proposed consolidation of SAG with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA). The unsolicited emails were designed to appear as if they were official SAG emails or sanctioned by the Guild. While the deceptive emails were inappropriately distributed to large segments of the Guild’s membership, the most controversial email was sent to Guild employees. Designed to resemble a memorandum from SAG’s Human Resources Department, it falsely claimed that workers’ future employment would be jeopardized if the unions consolidated. The consolidation measure was narrowly defeated in a membership referendum.
: When you inspect the e-mails you’ll see that they do not try to appear as if they are official SAG e-mails or sanctioned by the Guild. Compare them to the phony Restore Respect SAG press release bashing MembershipFirst, or the manipulative Restore Respect: Night Under the Stars flier, which proclaimed that it was sponsored by The SCREEN ACTORS GUILD Young Professionals. (a bogus NON SAG affiliated group) Now to be fair, although Mr. White is not taking THEM to COURT, he has asked THEM not to do it again.
Through an investigation including information obtained from Adelphia Communications and Yahoo! through third-party subpoenas SAG lawyers traced the bulk email attack to an Internet account belonging to Mr. Vulich. After repeatedly denying any knowledge of the emails, and once it was clear that SAG was proceeding with litigation, Mr. Vulich finally admitted he was the source of most of the emails. However, Mr. Vulich continues to deny involvement in the fraudulent emails sent directly to SAG employees.
And there is absolutely NO PROOF that he did anything more than forward, legitimate, truthful e-mails from SAG leaders, including several past SAG presidents, and concerned members who opposed CONsolidation.
“Mr. Vulich has alleged that he worked on behalf of certain SAG members in connection with his sabotage efforts, but he has refused to produce any credible evidence supporting this assertion,” White added. “Our union is filled with diverse, strong opinions. But our members are very public in speaking their minds, and we do not believe that they conspire with employers to undermine a legitimate union vote. Wherever this investigation leads, however, our position remains the same: If individuals feel they can wrongfully alter the outcome of a union vote through intimidation, fraud or other illegal means, then they are sorely mistaken.”
Right, I can just hear Mr. Vulich “Yeah, yeah, I worked on behalf of certain SAG members in my sabotage efforts!” Hmmm, but then he “refused to produce any credible evidence supporting his assertion.” Huh? First he accuses himself! Then he fails to back up his accusation! My God, the cad! I especially agree with this part “If individuals feel they can wrongfully alter the outcome of a union vote through intimidation, fraud or other illegal means, then they are sorely mistaken!” It ain’t gonna work Bob, Melissa, David and the rest! You ain’t gonna stifle the truth with your phony law suit!
Oh, and Mr. White says of SAG members “we do not believe that they conspire with employers to undermine a legitimate union vote.” But wait it was only a few months ago that President Gilbert proclaimed that our employers have placed Embedded Union Busters in our midst to harm union members?” Hey, maybe she was talking about the make-up artists! Right!”
This past Friday, the federal court judge presiding over the case ruled in SAG’s favor on two separate attempts by Mr. Vulich to prevent the union from proceeding with its case against him. Describing the motions as “almost entirely without merit,” the first denied Mr. Vulich’s motion to dismiss SAG’s complaint. The second commonly known as an “anti-SLAPP” motion claimed that SAG was punishing Mr. Vulich for exercising his First Amendment rights and would have required SAG to pay Mr. Vulich’s legal fees. However, the judge ruled the motion to be “frivolous” and instead ordered Mr. Vulich to pay SAG’s legal costs incurred by the motion.
I’ll let Mr. Vulich’s attorney clarify the above statements.
SAG’s suit alleges nine causes of action, including fraud, libel, nuisance, interference with employment relationships, trademark infringement, two counts of computer fraud and abuse, unfair competition, and interference with prospective economic advantage. SAG is seeking general and punitive damages and injunctive relief against future email attacks. The Guild also is investigating a possible connection to similar electronic attacks in last fall’s successful commercials contract referendum.
“Unfair competition?” This from the gang that spent MILLIONS of our DUES dollars on a deluge of propaganda to sucker us into Consolidation! Mr. White says that perhaps he may take this to the Labor Board! I say YES! Let’s take it ALL to the labor board! Let’s have an OPEN INVESTIGATION! Then perhaps we can find if FIVE MILLION DOLLARS was taken from the Missing Actors Residual Fund to finance things–like this lawsuit and failed referendums!
The following e-mail is from Mr. Vulich’s attorney Bret Fausett. It is followed by ACTUAL COPIES of those “Interfering” e-mails
Dear Friend of Free Speech,
As many of you know, I am counsel for John Vulich, who has been sued by the Screen Actors Guild for his role last summer in facilitating communication among members of SAG about the proposed SAG-AFTRA consolidation. Specifically, Mr. Vulich has been sued because he allowed a voting and politically active member of SAG to send anonymous e-mail messages campaigning against the consolidation from his residence.
About 4:00 p.m. this afternoon, my phone started ringing off the hook with calls from reporters inquiring about the case. They informed me that SAG had issued a press release about the litigation and wanted my comment. I have not seen SAG’s press release but because ‘Hollywood spin can get halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on,’ I wanted to share with you some facts about this case in advance of tomorrow’s news.
SAG has filed suit against John Vulich and certain still anonymous members of SAG over their role in forwarding e-mail correspondence in June, 2003 to other members of SAG on the subject of union consolidation. SAG does not contend that any law was broken, only that the defendants are liable for civil damages for interfering with the June, 2003 referendum. I have attached a copy of the e-mail messages at issue as a PDF to this e-mail. As you can see, they are politically-oriented statements of opinion about the merits of the consolidation. Certainly reasonable people can disagree about the merits of the consolidation; you would expect nothing less in a union of this size. SAG contends, however, that the persons who sent these e-mail messages failed to use an “official procedure” for communication and, as a consequence of their anonymous speech outside official channels, disrupted the referendum. SAG also contends that using “SAG” in the subject line of the e-mail messages violated SAG’s trademark and that because the messages were received by certain members of SAG’s staff on SAG computers, the defendants trespassed on SAG’s property. You should read the messages themselves and come to your own conclusion about whether these messages interfered with SAG or the 2003 referendum. I think they speak for themselves.
It’s important for you to know that SAG also has tried to paint this litigation as one involving an employer of SAG members who was trying to disrupt the SAG-AFTRA merger for his own commercial gain. I understand from reporters that this point was repeated today in calls by SAG to the press. Under any reasonable understanding of the word “employer,” this allegation is simply false. Mr. Vulich is an Emmy-award winning designer of special make-up effects. He is neither a member of SAG nor an employer of SAG members. He had nothing to gain by his participation in the litigation, and his only role was to assist a politically active, but anonymous, SAG member who he counts as a friend. Nevertheless, SAG has argued that as a make-up artist, Mr. Vulich would stand to gain commercially if SAG and AFTRA failed to merge. SAG’s reasoning is that (a) movie budgets are fixed;
(b) a SAG-AFTRA alliance would give the new union, AIMA, greater bargaining clout; with greater bargaining clout, AIMA would be able to procure a greater percentage of the fixed budgets for its members; and (d) a greater percentage of budgets for actors which would mean less money for make-up artists.
This is the convoluted reasoning by which SAG claims that Mr. Vulich is an “employer.” Because this is a serious allegation, however, I wanted you to be assured that Mr. Vulich had no such commercial motivation and that SAG’s reasoning on this point is deeply flawed. When you hear SAG claim that Mr. Vulich is an “employer,” understand that this is what it is talking about.
The timing of SAG’s press release is related to a ruling we received on Friday afternoon on two motions we filed. One was a motion to dismiss and the other was a motion to strike the complaint under California’s law against “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” On the motion to dismiss, the Court granted our motion to dismiss SAG’s fraud claim, but denied the motion on the remaining counts. In considering a motion to dismiss, a court is required to accept as true all of the things that SAG alleged. The court’s ruling does not mean that SAG has proven anything it only means that SAG’s allegations (even if they are false) are entitled to be resolved through the litigation process. As to the motion under California’s law against “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” the Court denied that motion solely on the ground that SAG also had alleged that Mr. Vulich sent an e-mail to SAG’s staff suggesting that they would be fired if the SAG-AFTRA consolidation were approved. Mr. Vulich has denied, under oath, sending this e-mail, and we have no knowledge about this particular allegation. Even SAG’s own evidence shows that the e-mail to staff was not sent from Mr. Vulich’s residence. Nevertheless, this unrelated but serious allegation was sufficient to deny our motion. We’ll have to wait for another day, later in the litigation, to establish our First Amendment defense.
In a phone call this afternoon, a reporter asked whether Mr. Vulich was worried about how this lawsuit would affect his reputation in the entertainment community. I can’t speak for John on that, but I can tell you what I told the reporter: Why would anyone view John Vulich negatively for defending the First Amendment? That’s really what this lawsuit is about. Can SAG members communicate freely through lists of e-mail addresses independently assembled by their own grass roots efforts or must all communication about union politics go through SAG’s “official procedures”? I don’t think the question is even close. As I told the reporter this afternoon, I think Mr. Vulich is to be commended for championing the cause of free speech and anonymous speech (also protected under the U.S. Constitution). SAG may be hoping to injure Mr. Vulich’s reputation, but I would hope that members of the entertainment community have the foresight to appreciate that he is vindicating an important constitutional interest that ultimately will benefit us all.
In the interests of putting the pants on the truth as fast as possible, I would be happy to share with any of you who are interested the pleadings in this case and the rulings of the court. Information is the best response to spin, and I’m happy to share with you the publicly filed pleadings and declarations so you can make up your own mind.
Thank you again for your assistance and support.
(formatting on this letter was SW’s)
Talk about “frivolous” Lawsuits! Now, let’s look at those e-mails that Mr. Vulich forwarded. You’ll notice that all of them, unlike the undocumented twaddle you were bombarded with from Bob & the Gang, quoted segments of the AIMA Constitution to back their points. Conversely, in spending FOUR MILLION OF YOUR DUES DOLLARS on Consolidation, those pushing it never ONCE quoted their own AIMA Constitution to disprove an allegation— or prove one of their bogus professions!
Oh, and another thought how would anyone affect the Referendum vote by e-mailling the staff. THEY DON’T HAVE A VOTE IN SUCH MATTERS?
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
Here then are Mr. Fausett’s exhibits.