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With the crack of a gavel, SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard called the union’s first convention to order just after 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning. Currently, the convention is in closed session and is proceeding with the election of a new executive vice president.
Gabrielle Carteris and Mike Hodge are the previously announced candidates. In addition, a source told The Hollywood Reporter that Membership 1st stalwart Jane Austin was nominated from the floor, with unsuccessful presidential candidate Esai Morales speaking in her favor.
Membership 1st’s Millie Wright was also nominated, but directed her supporters to vote for Austin. The vote count is currently in progress.
Howard, perhaps mindful of the mind-numbing array of constitutional amendments and resolutions that will face the delegates over the next several days, declared in his opening remarks “this work matters.”
That message was underscored by the keynote speaker, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who began his speech by saying, “God bless you for what you’ve done in merging these unions together.”
After talking a bit about SAG-AFTRA – and “everybody else who makes it possible for the stars to shine” – Trumka transitioned to a stump speech about economic equity and worker rights. He received several standing ovations.
The convention will also elect seven additional vice presidents today. The convention agenda also includes workshops, panels and additional speeches, including a Saturday morning keynote from U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.
Delegates from across the country are in attendance, but not all who were elected decided to make the trip. For some, the issue was conflicting work obligations, while for others it was a question of money. The union is only paying travel and lodging expenses for some of the delegates.
Even with that caveat, the total budget for the convention is $875,000, sources told THR. That’s led some to question the value of the biennial event. However, convention was insisted on by AFTRA as a condition of merger.
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