SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino is turning out to be a major wildcard in the union’s upcoming elections. A co-founder of Ken Howard’s Unite for Strength slate, she had been his top running mate in the union’s last election, and before the merger, had been his top running mate in the last two SAG elections. But now she’s not endorsing him for president and doesn’t even think he should be elected to serve on the SAG-AFTRA national board of directors. It would appear that they’ve had a serious falling out.
And while she’s not endorsing Membership First’s Patricia Richardson for president, either, she is endorsing her for a seat on the national board. Howard is running for reelection to the national board too, but Aquino is not endorsing him.
Aquino, who isn’t seeking reelection as secretary-treasurer – she’s running as an independent for the national board and as a delegate to the upcoming convention – isn’t endorsing either presidential candidate – Howard or Richardson, or either candidate for secretary-treasurer – Jane Austin (Membership First) or Jenny O’Hara (Unite for Strength).
“There are two opposing slates in the national and LA elections – Unite for Strength and Membership First,” she said today in an email to the union’s members. “I don’t recommend a straight slate vote for either one.”
Union observers were surprised on June 1 when Aquino’s name wasn’t listed among the candidates running on the Unite for Strength slate, but until now, she’s remained mum about who she is, and isn’t, supporting.
“As for national president and secretary-treasurer, I believe that all four candidates are equally capable of serving, and all should be seriously considered,” she wrote, but then took a not-so-veiled swing at the current leadership’s group-think. “What is critical for the union now is diversity of thought and leadership,” she wrote. “We need respect for the democratic process, and a board that welcomes dissenting opinions, fosters debate and nurtures the collectivism that defines a healthy labor organization.” All of that, she suggests, is now missing.
True to her word, she’s supporting an eclectic mix of board candidates and convention delegates, including several who, like her, are running as independents. She’s recommending 12 Unite for Strength candidates for the national board – but not Howard – and four from Membership First, including Richardson and David Jolliffe, one of the leaders of Membership First. For the local board, she’s endorsing 24 candidates from Unite for Strength, and nine from Membership First, including Richardson and Jolliffe.
“This is the board that will oversee our next two big contract negotiations, and nothing could be more important,” she wrote. “As for myself, I have accomplished what I hoped to as secretary-treasurer, first of SAG and now SAG-AFTRA. I would still like to be of service, though, and would appreciate your LA vote for National Board and (convention) delegate.”