SAG-AFTRA Elects Incumbent Gabrielle Carteris as President Following a Bitter Campaign | L.A. Times

Dr. David Smith Quoted in the L.A. Times

August 25, 2017  | 3 min read
 
Actors know how to do drama and this year’s SAG-AFTRA election did not disappoint. Following an acrimonious campaign in which rival factions engaged in name calling and social media attacks — with one side even threatening to lodge a federal complaint — SAG-AFTRA members Thursday elected incumbent President Gabrielle Carteris to a new two-year term.
 
The screen actors union said ballots were mailed to about 144,000 eligible voters July 25; 28,988, or 20.1%, were returned. Carteris received 14,674 votes, or a little more than 50% of the returned ballots. Esai Morales came in second with 8,145 votes. Pete Antico received 4,114 votes, Robert B. Martin Jr. 1,207 votes and Marilyn Monrovia 715 votes.
 
Carteris assumed the top position at SAG-AFTRA in 2016 following the death of actor Ken Howard. This year’s campaign involved bitter exchanges between the union’s Membership First faction, which backed Morales, and those loyal to Carteris, who heads the more moderate Unite for Strength wing of the guild. In recent days, the Membership First cohort threatened to file an election fraud complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor against Carteris, who was also running for a seat on the local L.A. board.
 
The faction said it will file a complaint if Carteris gives away her seat to another member of Unite for Strength, saying that such an act would constitute election fraud. Carteris’ supporters have accused Morales of failing to attend numerous meetings in his role as vice president of the union’s L.A. chapter. His foes have also used Facebook and Twitter to denounce the actor for what they consider homophobic language when he included the word “nelly” in a Facebook post. Morales has denied that he used the term in a derogatory way.
 
The elections “have been very dramatic with mud-slinging and accusations of election fraud,” said Dr. David Smith, associate professor of economics at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. “Having a campaign platform that is centered on shaking things up can be good, but too much acrimony will only further the divisions within the union.” Morales has been a vocal opponent of the new film and TV contract that SAG-AFTRA voted to ratify earlier this month. He has accused SAG-AFTRA leaders of negotiating a deal that inadequately addresses cost-of-living increases and of failing to put enough pressure on major Hollywood studios.
 
Members of SAG-AFTRA ultimately voted nearly 76% in favor of the new contract, though only slightly more than 15% of eligible members cast their ballots. In the weeks leading up to the contract vote, Morales urged members to vote against it, saying the contract inadequately addressed issues including travel expenses and residuals. Morales had gained support for his candidacy from some notable actors, including Martin Sheen, Frances Fisher, Alfred Molina, Rosanna Arquette, Matthew Modine and Vincent D'Onofrio.
 
Meanwhile, the opposing Unite for Strength garnered backing from A-listers including George Clooney and Bryan Cranston. Morales didn’t respond to requests for comment. The actor starred in the 1987 movie “La Bamba” and the ABC series “NYPD Blue.” He currently has a supporting role in the new Netflix series “Ozark.” SAG-AFTRA elections tend to bring out colorful candidates who engage in passionate and at times accusatory rhetoric. The factions within the guild have been fighting for years over issues including the 2012 merger between the two performers’ unions as well as the 2000 commercials strike.
 
SAG-AFTRA said its new contract will guarantee raises of 2.5% to 3% for each year, as well as increased pension and retirement contributions. In addition, it provides for earlier and bigger residuals, with an increase of more than 300% for content streamed on new media platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. The union has been striking against the video-game industry since October. It is demanding residual-like compensation from several prominent gaming companies, as well as improved safety measures for voice and motion-capture performers.