SAG factions battle for board


A divided SAG is nothing new. When the union was formed in 1933, there were actors who supported forming a performers union and those who opposed it.

Not much has changed in 75 years, as Tuesday's announcement of 84 candidates out of Hollywood vying for seats on the union's national board demonstrated.

The New York division has 20 candidates in the running for five national board seats and nine alternates. There also are seven other national board seats open for branches outside of Hollywood and New York.

In addition, the Hollywood division has 11 seats open for the national board, along with 22 alternates. Two factions have emerged to vie for those seats.

On one side is MembershipFirst, the faction that currently holds the majority of SAG's national board and Hollywood board. MembershipFirst has 22 incumbents and 11 newcomers looking to fill the 23 open seats on the national board.

On the other side is Unite for Strength, formed during the current negotiations stalemate by members frustrated with what they see as MembershipFirst's focus on battling sister union AFTRA at the expense of getting a new deal with the studios.

MembershipFirst's slate wants to continue what it calls a four-year streak of firsts for the guild, citing the development of an online actors' directory, iActor as well as forming new technology/ new media and organizing departments within the guild and negotiating basic cable residuals.

"We're the first group to help create a $20 million surplus," said Anne-Marie Johnson, a SAG board member and MembershipFirster.

Unite for Strength, led by veteran actor Ned Vaughn, lists new media as its top issue but also is focusing on unity among the guild and disposing of factionalism that it says has "damaged the guild's effectiveness." (partialdiff)