SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer Jane Austin, a former member of the MembershipFirst slate, announced Thursday that she is running for the union’s presidency, setting up a three-way contest that could see her split the opposition vote with MembershipFirst candidate Matthew Modine and aid the reelection campaign of incumbent president Gabrielle Carteris on the Unite for Strength ticket.
Austin, who has been secretary-treasurer for four years and concurrently serves as president of the union’s Los Angeles local, heralds herself as “the candidate of change, running independently of the two-party slate system.”
“SAG-AFTRA needs to be strong in the next negotiations, strong in enforcing our contracts, strong in supporting all locals, strong in supporting all performers and strong in conducting day-to-day business,” Austin said in a statement. “The only way we can accomplish that is for all of us to get involved in this process. I’m not looking to impress you with celebrity endorsements. I want to earn your vote based on what I have already done and what I will do to make SAG-AFTRA strong and earn the members’ and the industry’s trust.”
Austin’s campaign said she has been a union member since 1987 and has 14 years of union service, including work on such SAG-AFTRA committees as the National Executive Committee, the Communications Committee, the Disciplinary Review Committee and the Stunt Committee, which she chaired. Austin is also chair of the Union Veterans Council at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and involved in a veteran’s initiative with the AFL-CIO. Her platform emphasizes change.
MF, UFS and USAN, a New York based group that affiliates with UFS and has also endorsed Carteris, will also field slates of candidates vying for open positions as national and local board members and as delegates to the fourth SAG-AFTRA National Convention, to be held in Los Angeles in October. Election ballots will be mailed to members July 29 and will be tabulated Aug. 28.
Meanwhile the incumbent candidate, Gabrielle Carteris, was first elected SAG-AFTRA president in 2016 by a unanimous vote of the union’s national board to fill out the late Ken Howard’s term, after serving two terms as the union’s executive vice president, a position elected at SAG-AFTRA’s biennial convention. She was then elected president by the membership in 2017, winning a bare majority in a race that saw opposition votes split among a MembershipFirst candidate and another former MF member, as well as two independents who each polled under 5 percent.
“While our employers are consolidating and attempting to squeeze our earnings, we have proven that a united front is our best weapon in fighting for fair wages, safety on sets and protection of all our members — especially those who are most vulnerable,” said Carteris in a statement. “As SAG-AFTRA president, I’ve seen first-hand the power of our members. With fierce determination we won the Interactive strike, revolutionized the commercials contract and transformed high budget streaming residuals. We’ve set the stage for our future and demonstrated both the necessity and incredible power of unions.”
Carteris is endorsed by most of the union’s national officers, three past SAG presidents, over 100 SAG-AFTRA leaders from all 25 locals, and such notables as Octavia Spencer, Bryan Cranston, Geena Davis, Alan Alda, James Cromwell, Rita Moreno, J.K. Simmons, Jane Lynch, Alec Baldwin, Rosario Dawson, Clark Gregg, Maria Bello, Noah Wyle, Camryn Manheim, Mike Colter, Margo Martindale, Jason Priestley, Jon Huertas, Marcia Gay Harden, Michael Cudlitz, Tichina Arnold, Adam Arkin, John Cho, Selma Blair, Jason George, Mike Farrell, Rhea Perlman, Yvette Nicole Brown, Adrian Martinez, Lisa Vidal, Robert Patrick, Michelle Hurd, Jack Speer and Joe Krebs.