EXCLUSIVE: AFTRA member accused of running SAGWatch

David Browde denies he runs 'pro-merger' site.

SAGWatch is in the crosshairs.

The anonymously run website, which has long been an aggregator of news about SAG, AFTRA and other Hollywood unions, has also long come under fire by some members of SAG's MembershipFirst faction, who criticize the site for its pro-merger and anti-MembershipFirst stance.

MembershipFirst, the group associated with former SAG president Alan Rosenberg and others, has been on the wane for the past three SAG election cycles.

In recent weeks, anonymous claims have surfaced that AFTRA board member David Browde runs the website and that by so doing is in violation of an agreement between SAG and AFTRA that prohibits leaders of each union from disparaging the other union.

AFTRA is now investigating, the union confirmed. A statement added, "If it turns out that there have been any violations of the No-Raiding Agreement, or of AFTRA's confidentiality policies, we will take swift and appropriate action."

In a short, exclusive interview with THR, Browde said the accusation was "false."

Indeed, the claim is somewhat ironic, since Browde publicly opposed merger of the two unions in 1999 and 2003 and is understood to remain skeptical of uniting the two organizations. That contrasts with SAGWatch's stance.

A source close to AFTRA said that the internal investigation is active but added that there was "no timetable" for completion of the inquiry. AFTRA and SAG are busy negotiating the TV/theatrical contracts with the AMPTP on a daily basis.

Whether Browde is involved, a separate question is whether the website constitutes disparagement of SAG. If not, there would appear to be no prohibition on an AFTRA board member running such a site.

The identity of the anonymous tipsters is not known. In addition, there's no indication that SAG has made any complaint to AFTRA, and a guild spokeswoman had no comment about the entire matter. A note on the SAGWatch website indicated that the site operators had not yet discussed a response to the AFTRA statement.

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