Gabrielle Carteris Elected SAG-AFTRA President
She was elected by the union's board and will serve until August 2017.
Actor Gabrielle Carteris, who has been serving as SAG-AFTRA’s acting president since the death last month of Ken Howard, was elected president by the union’s board to fill out the remainder of Howard’s term, SAG-AFTRA announced Saturday. She will serve until August 2017.
A veteran of Beverly Hills, 90210, Carteris was also the union’s executive vp, an office she now vacates. The board elected Rebecca Damon to fill that slot. For the first time, SAG-AFTRA’s top three officers are all female, the union noted.
“I am deeply honored to be chosen by the SAG-AFTRA National Board to serve the union and its members as president,” said Carteris. “Ken was a great union leader, friend and mentor. He left big shoes to fill, but with the support of the national board of directors and the membership, I am committed to improving the lives of all SAG-AFTRA members.”
Carteris’ election on Saturday positions her as the incumbent president should she decide to run for re-election by the membership next year. She was elected most recently as executive vp last October, with 79 percent of the vote at the SAG-AFTRA biennial convention. (SAG-AFTRA’s membership elects the president, but convention delegates elect the exec vp.) She was first elected to that office in 2013.
Prior to executive vp, Carteris was a SAG-AFTRA national vp for Los Angeles, and she served both predecessor unions before the SAG/AFTRA merger in 2012 in a variety of board, officer and delegate positions, including as a member of the G1 (Group for One Union) committee that developed the detailed merger plan.
Over the last several months, Carteris also served as co-chair for the union’s commercials negotiations. SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry reached a tentative deal on that contract last week. The board is expected to endorse the contract today or tomorrow, and send it on to the membership for a vote.
Damon is a New York actor and voiceover artist who also served on the G1 and has served on the union’s national and local boards and various committees. She is also a board member of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, the union’s affiliated charitable group.
“It’s an honor to serve our members, and I’m grateful for Gabrielle’s trust and the support of my colleagues,” said Damon. “As executive vice president, I will continue working to expand SAG-AFTRA’s reach and to increase opportunities for members across the country. Following the peerless example of our beloved late president, Ken Howard, we will focus on member outreach to maximize the solidarity and bargaining strength of our remarkable union.”
National executive director David White, the union’s top paid staff member, said, “I congratulate Gabrielle Carteris on her election as president of SAG-AFTRA. Gabrielle and I have worked closely together for many years, including most recently on the successful commercials contracts negotiations. I know she understands the needs and aspirations of our members and I am excited to work with her to continue advancing the goals of this union.”
He added, “I also congratulate Rebecca Damon on her election as executive vice president. She is a deeply experienced and effective leader who will work with President Carteris and the national board to engage and empower members throughout the country.”
Later this year, the union will begin preparations for negotiating the TV/theatrical contract, which expires mid-2017. The corresponding DGA and WGA contracts also expire next year, and it has not yet been announced whether, as is frequently the case, the DGA will negotiate first. Whoever goes first will likely negotiate this fall, well in advance of the expirations. For SAG-AFTRA, those negotiations, whenever they occur, will be conducted under the shadow of the next race for union president, which will take place roughly June through September of next year.
Also on the agenda is the merger of the SAG and AFTRA health plans. An AFTRA plan trustee recently said he expected that merger to occur by this coming January, and for Carteris and her Unite for Strength slate, achieving that benchmark may well be critical to electoral success next year. The opposing group, MembershipFirst, is likely to run a vigorous campaign.