SAG-AFTRA Joins Call for More Diversity: "This Moment Isn't Only About Race"

SAG President Ken Howard
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Howard is expected to kick off the mailing of merger ballots to SAG's 125,000 members. If the merger passes, the next question will be whether next year's ceremony becomes the "SAG-AFTRA Awards."

The union says the ultimate goal is "more and better jobs for all of our members."

SAG-AFTRA is adding its voice to the call for greater diversity in the entertainment industry. The guild’s President’s Task Force on Education, Outreach and Engagement and SAG-AFTRA Diversity Advisory Committee approved a statement in a joint meeting on Feb. 3 that was issued on Wednesday.

The statement sets forth a number of principals: it says the current focus on diversity isn’t just about race but also disability, age, gender, gender identify and sexual orientation; it commits the guild to focusing on inequities “in terms of opportunity, treatment and compensation”; it says statistics are a helpful tool in measuring progress, but the ultimate goal is “more and better jobs for our members”; and it calls for greater inclusion throughout the industry.

“A lack of diversity permeates our industry, and SAG-AFTRA as an organization is committed to affecting change,” said SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard. “Our Equal Employment Opportunity & Diversity Department is solely dedicated to making change on the front line, but inclusivity is something we care deeply about throughout all facets of our union.”

“There does seem to be momentum now towards inclusiveness,” added SAG-AFTRA executive vp Gabrielle Carteris. “But we won’t really see change happen until those in authority take responsibility and choose to make decisions based on authenticity. These decisions directly impact which stories and people are present and, more importantly, which are missing.”

Jason George, chair of the SAG-AFTRA diversity advisory committee, commented: “The most creative workplaces and most dynamic environments are flush with diversity. The faces we see on screen and voices we hear on the radio deeply matter to an audience hungry for authenticity."

The complete SAG-AFTRA statement follows:

It is a founding principle and included in our union’s mission statement that: “It is a core value of SAG-AFTRA that our strength is in our diversity. We are committed to the broadest employment and involvement of our members, regardless of race, national origin, ancestry, color, creed, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, veteran status, gender identity or expression, age or disability. SAG-AFTRA strives to educate and engage members so that they may be full participants in the workings of their union. We are proud to be a model of inclusion, democratic organization and governance.”

We proudly wish to publicly speak to our partners throughout the entertainment and news media with an invitation to continue the dialogue and, perhaps most importantly, suggest solutions to the situation in which we still find ourselves in 2016:

This moment isn’t only about race. This isn’t only about the lack of faces and voices of color. This is about disability. This is about age. This is about gender and gender identity. This is about sexual orientation. This is about the diversity of our stories, of our experiences, of our perspectives. So many of these are, right now, missing from our screens.

SAG-AFTRA members work in the most visible workplace on the planet and we will continue to use this visibility to shine a light on the inequity that still exists throughout all levels of the entertainment and news media — in terms of opportunity, treatment and compensation.

Statistical representation is a helpful tool to measure progress but isn’t the ultimate goal. It’s about more and better jobs for all of our members; in particular those who have been historically and categorically denied opportunities to compete for these jobs.

Greater inclusion is needed throughout every level: from executive suites, to writers’ rooms; from agencies to the cast and crew members on-set. All the greenlighters and gatekeepers need to understand that this is a business imperative and not a politically correct luxury — audiences are choosing authenticity over platitudes and will continue to make those choices with their time and their money.