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Tom Carpenter leaves SAG-AFTRA, joins Actors’ Equity as General Counsel

The union’s chief labor counsel departs for a legal and executive role at Actors Equity – further consolidating the power of former SAG staff in the merged union’s executive ranks.

Tom Carpenter, Actors' Equity
Stephanie Masucci/Actors' Equity

Less than five months after SAG and AFTRA merged, SAG-AFTRA chief labor counsel Tom Carpenter is leaving the union’s staff, taking a bigger job at a smaller union: Eastern regional director/assistant executive director and general counsel at Actors’ Equity. His resignation is effective August 17, and his new job starts August 27.

The move gives Carpenter a broad portfolio: he’ll oversee the region’s operations, collective bargaining and contracts and will lead the New York and Orlando staffs. As the home of Broadway, New York is especially important to Equity. In addition, Carpenter will serve as lead staff for public policy, and will oversee arbitrations and manage the union’s relationships with external legal counsel for labor relations.

“We are very pleased to have Tom join our Equity staff,” said Equity executive director Mary McColl. “Tom brings a breadth of experience to the table and his leadership skills complement our staff and support our mission. He will quickly become the go-to guy for our Eastern Region.”

“This is a tremendous opportunity to be part of the Equity staff as the Union approaches its 100th anniversary,” said Carpenter. “As live performance increasingly intersects with recorded media, I will work closely with Equity’s leadership to develop new strategies to protect the intellectual property rights and integrity of our members’ performances.”

Carpenter’s departure from SAG-AFTRA strengthens the role of the combined union's chief administrative officer / general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who now assumes complete control of the legal function. Execs and staffers who previously reported to Carpenter will now report to Crabtree-Ireland.

SAG-AFTRA co-president (and former AFTRA president) Roberta Reardon described Carpenter as “a tremendous asset to AFTRA,” while SAG-AFTRA national executive director David White said “Tom Carpenter has done a remarkable job as assistant national executive director and chief labor counsel” and praised his “wisdom, judgment and dedication.”

Carpenter’s exit further consolidates the power of former SAG executives in the merged union, a process that began with the merger and drew wider attention when former AFTRA national executive director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth resigned as SAG-AFTRA co-national executive director in April. As The Hollywood Reporter noted at that time, a close look at a list of SAG-AFTRA executive staff shows that almost every top-level department is run by a former SAG staffer or by co-equal SAG and AFTRA veterans.

White, Crabtree-Ireland, assistant national executive director for communications Pam Greenwalt, senior adviser John McGuire, chief financial officer Arianna Ozzanto, chief information officer Erin Griffin, assistant national executive director for locals Linda Dowell and assistant national executive director for awards Kathy Connell are all former SAG executives.

In contrast, the only former AFTRA executives at the top without a parallel SAG appointment are associate national executive director Mathis Dunn, and two assistant national executive directors for areas where AFTRA had sole jurisdiction: Mary Cavallaro (news & broadcast) and Randall Himes (sound recordings).

Other top staff are the assistant national executive directors of contracts, Ray Rodriguez (formerly SAG) and Joan Halpern Weise (AFTRA); and the assistant national executive directors for organizing (Phillip Denniston, AFTRA) and for industry relations (Deborah Skelly, SAG).

In the elected leadership, most positions draw on coordinate SAG and AFTRA officers and board members. A key exception is the number two officer position – the executive vice president – which is held by former SAG leader Ned Vaughn. He, and co-secretary-treasurer Amy Aquino, originated the merger campaign in 2008 with the formation of their Unite for Strength slate.

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Email: jhandel@att.net

Twitter: @jhandel