2019 Letter to SAG-AFTRA Members

Shaan Sharma
62 min readMar 6, 2020


Shaan Sharma, SAG-AFTRA LA Local Board member & Co-Chair of the Los Angeles Conservatory

The opinions expressed herein are mine alone and should not be assumed to be the opinions of UnionWorking, MembershipFirst, SAG-AFTRA, or any other member.



If you don’t have time to read this letter, I audio recorded it for you. Click here to listen or download as a .mp3: http://bit.ly/2ypPAkP

Download this letter as a PDF: http://bit.ly/2Yi7420

Hi, everyone. I’m Shaan Sharma.

As some of you might remember, two years ago I felt so compelled to send a letter to all our LA members describing my experience running for the Local Board of Directors for the first time that I was willing to pay the insane cost of $2,801 to do so. For those of you who haven’t read it and want to, you can read it here, picked up by deadline: https://deadline.com/2017/08/sag-aftra-shaan-sharma-board-candidate-letter-1202154210/

In it, I basically shared my disappointing discovery that there are two political parties that control our union’s leadership. They’re so busy fighting between themselves that the business of the union has been suffering and stalled for over a decade, and that’s why our union is failing all of us, almost everywhere we look. If we want to solve our problems, we need new, independent-minded leadership from members like you and me.

Well, in the two years since I wrote that, I’ve had the opportunity and honor to serve as a Convention Delegate, and on both the LA Local Board of Directors and in all but one National Board of Directors meetings. This is in addition to serving on multiple Local and National Committees, leading various union volunteer projects, regularly teaching at the LA Conservatory and LA Local Member Education, and being a core part of UnionWorking, the independent, non-political grassroots group of members that played a huge part in the recent successful and groundbreaking commercial contract design and negotiation.

Few members have been involved as deeply and in so many different aspects of our union’s operations as I have. That has given me rare insight into how everything in our union works and made it possible for me to diagnose exactly what’s wrong and how we can fix it.

So, this is my follow-up report to you. You might want to sit down and take off your socks for this one. It’s going to be a doozy.

And since this one is also costing me $3,000 to send to you all, I want to make the most of it and tell you everything that I believe you really need to know. So this is not just going to be long, it’s going to be what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-you long.

To make it easier, I wrote this in four parts:

First is the most pressing issue facing us at this time in my view: that our election system in LA is broken.

Second is my full report of everything I believe you deserve and need to know.

Third is a link to a page I put together about how SAG-AFTRA works, because you may not know and our non-mandatory member orientations and website fail to clearly tell you this essential, basic stuff.

Fourth is the list of everyone I’m voting for and why, so that you’ve got at least one deep insider’s perspective when making your own voting decisions. Or you could just vote for whoever you recognize. I mean, since they booked some shows or movies, they’re probably wise leaders too, right? It’s only our profession and your money at stake.

In my full report, I am going to present the major categories of problems we need to fix in our union and how I believe we can fix them. Then I’ll share Four Areas of Action of new programs and volunteer opportunities that are transforming our union into what we’ve always wanted: one that makes us feel supported and enriched in the pursuit of our artistic dreams. One in which our members are engaged, educated, and in total solidarity. That’s when we’ll be able to walk into contract negotiations and get the compensation and working conditions we deserve.

I’m going to tell you everything straight, no BS. I’m not asking you to accept anything I share on faith. But I believe that if any of you had experienced what I’ve experienced so far, you’d write a similar report. I’m just a blue collar working actor volunteering 20+ hours a week trying to make a better union for all of us and to distinguish myself in our community by being of service, and it won’t do us any good if people like me sugar-coat anything or blow smoke up our buns.

Also, wherever possible, I call out individuals, not groups. It’s the only just and useful way to inform you. You save patients by identifying and removing the specific locations of cancer. There are wonderful people in both political parties who do not deserve to be painted with the same brush as those who are corrupt or inept.

It may seem brutal and personal to call out individuals, but just remember that our union leaders publicly and voluntarily took on that role of responsibility. Our union, and so our fates too, are in their hands. We have every right to review and judge their performance and hold them accountable. My feedback is only targeted at their union leadership behavior. Apart from that, I’m sure they’re all great artists and people.

Lastly, I love what we do, and have grown to care deeply for our union: the thousands of our members and staff I’ve gotten to know through acting, casting, teaching, activism, volunteerism, and leadership. You all deserve the best chance at making a living doing what you love, and anyone responsible for making that harder by abusing or consistently failing in their position in leadership needs to go. That includes our current President.

Under the leadership of Gabrielle Carteris and her inner circle of her political party called Unite for Strength (UFS), our union operations have been crippled. Almost nothing works the way it should, including the fact that they broke and corrupted the LA Local election system to make it easier for them to stay in power by intentionally deceiving you and exploiting how you vote.

Let’s start with this one, but very telling, example.

You can have no confidence that anyone you elect to the Local or National Board will actually be the one to serve you in that position. As weird as that sounds, it’s true. Here’s what happened:

Under Clyde Kusatsu’s term as LA Local President in 2014, Unite for Strength changed how the LA Constitution handles Board vacancies and resignations. They made it so that the resigning board member personally chooses their replacement, instead of the vacant seat going to the next highest vote-getter in the election.

They did that so they could run celebrity candidates in elections, who had no intention of serving, just to win seats, who would then resign and give their positions to party insiders who don’t get elected on their own merits. And they did it so grossly in 2017.

Unite for Strength ran high-profile men and women of color, Jon Huertas, Regina King, and Jason George, all who resigned their elected seats and gave them to Gabrielle’s inner circle members William (Bill) Charlton, Ben Whitehair, and Woody Schulz. I am willing to bet that, like me, many of you voted for Jon, Regina, and Jason because you wanted accomplished, diverse, or female voices in leadership. See for yourself. Here’s the 2017 election results: http://bit.ly/30XzAmm

And it’s not a coincidence. When I was first approached to run for the board by Unite for Strength back in 2017, I was present at Gabrielle’s house when Bill Charlton announced to us that this was their strategy. Win seats with celebrity friends and then dole them out amongst themselves.

So, this election, I want you to watch the candidates who win seats and see who resigns and gives their seats away and to whom. It’ll likely be those same people. They’ll make excuses, but you all know the reality now. And since that is now the official policy, that’s how all resignations have to be handled until we change the LA Local constitution again.

That’s actually how I ended up in the boardroom myself. I was actually the 1st runner-up in the 2017 election. The top 41 candidates for LA Local Board who get the most votes get seats, and I came in at #42, six votes shy. I was passed over a dozen times, with winners resigning and giving their seats away to their party insiders, until our LA President Jane Austin’s husband, Kurt Lott, asked me to take his Local Board seat when he got hired to work with James Cameron on a bunch of movies.

The bottom line is: You can’t have any confidence that who you vote for is who will serve you. That’s entirely the work of Gabrielle Carteris, Bill Charlton, and her Unite for Strength political party that has had total control over our union for the past decade.

You can copy and paste that kind of cynical, corrupt, and selfish leadership across our entire union’s operations, and that’s why you’re not crazy if you feel like something is wrong with your union or that it isn’t doing anything for you. It is failing you. And it starts at the top.

You see, in our union, unlike the US Government, there is no judicial branch. SAG-AFTRA is a dictatorship. The President has unchecked power if they control the National Board. Any blindspots of the President, become the blindspots of the entire union. And, from my experience on the inside, Gabrielle has been using the union and our communications department as her personal PR firm to consolidate power, build her own profile, and advance her own career interests instead of serving us, the membership, and especially the 95% of us who aren’t movie stars and TV series regulars.

I’ll give you another simple, intolerable example of her leadership: you would think the President of our union, which exists to protect us, would care to know how our members get employed, make sure our staff do too, and take steps to make sure we’re not exploited. However, it wasn’t until the spring of last year, 2018, that our senior staff, including our Chief Technology Officer, had ever seen ActorsAccess, CastingNetworks, and CastingFrontier, and how they work, and only because I, personally, showed it to them and walked them through it. Their jaws hit the floor at the current state of technology in our business.

And btw: that’s the meeting that eventually led to our ActorsAccess discount.

How can our union’s staff not be aware of how 90% of us get employed? Because Gabrielle has no idea, and so our staff didn’t either. We all pay hundreds of dollars per year to these online casting services, and our union receives no data in exchange; nothing to better police our membership, our agents and managers, keep tabs on trends in jobs and rates, protect our private data, nothing. And yet we have iActor, just sitting there, could develop it, and offer casting our own, free, safe platform, but there’s no interest in member leadership under Gabrielle’s rule, to do it.

That kind of negligence is everywhere. The results speak for themselves:

  • 80% of our commercial work has gone nonunion.
  • 90% of theatrical work is now controlled by four big agencies who’ve become our employers instead of our advocates.
  • Our art is in more demand than ever and yet performers are being paid less than ever, including series regulars, all while our health plan is harder to earn and our pension plan benefits have been reduced.
  • Travel benefits have been reduced as production has exploded across the country.
  • Union voiceover work has been decimated.
  • Background performers lack nationwide coverage.
  • Dancers in groups are paid less and often treated like background on set. Choreographers lack coverage.
  • Work for singers has gone overseas.
  • Members aren’t educated about our union or contracts.
  • Loyalty and engagement is at an all-time low with thousands of members violating our contracts, working off the card, or rejecting membership.
  • Violators are not being disciplined.
  • Staff customer service and training issues are driving away jobs.
  • A toxic leadership culture has driven away our most powerful and successful members from serving in leadership, and on and on it goes.

Facts are not political. These are the irrefutable results of the leadership of Gabrielle Carteris, Ken Howard before her, the Unite for Strength political party, especially their inner circle: mainly Bill Charlton, Ben Whitehair, Woody Schultz, Ellen Crawford, Clyde Kusatsu, and their allies in the New York Local under Rebecca Damon and her United Screen Actors Nationwide (USAN) political party.

No matter what they say, they are personally, directly, responsible for the way things are. They’ve had complete control over every aspect of our union since taking control of SAG in 2008, and their merger of SAG with AFTRA. They have faced no effective opposition in the boardrooms because they’ve had the overwhelming majority. Period. That’s still the case to this day.

So, it’s not technology. It’s not Trump. It’s not changes in the market. It’s not any internal opposition from rival parties like MembershipFirst. It’s harder to make a living as a union performer than ever at a time when our art is in more demand than ever because of their leadership and if we want things to get better, we need to vote them out.

We have to change the national leadership.
This is my canary-in-the-coal-mine message to you, my beloved community.

Keep one thing in mind about celebrity endorsements during our elections. Most of our high profile members have no idea what’s going on inside our union and are just being nice and supporting their friends. We haven’t seen almost any of those celebrities on the various campaign websites show up and do a single thing for our union.

The thing is, our union was founded, and used to be led by, the most powerful performers in the business, which gave our union so much clout. We really need those kinds of artists back in union leadership, but our toxic leadership culture has driven them out. Until that changes, all celebrity endorsements mean is that the candidate has some respect within the industry, but not necessarily that they would make a good union leader.

There is so much I want to share with you that I cannot because much of what happens in the Local and National Boardrooms is confidential, sometimes for really good reasons, other times for no good reason other than to hide nefarious activity from you, the members.

But I can share the following disturbingly typical example. Let’s talk about election reform for a moment.

From the moment I stepped into the boardroom, I announced my intent to make it easier for independent candidates to get elected. In 2017, not a single independent candidate in LA was elected, from President all the way down to the Convention Delegates. If you didn’t run with UFS or MF, you didn’t get in. I immediately began the fight for election reform and wrote the following Election Reform Brief, which I sent to all the LA Local Board members: http://bit.ly/2Ong7pf

TL;DR: (Too Long; Didn’t Read summary)

  1. Leaders of our union should have at least some professional experience working our contracts. (They don’t currently have to.)
  2. It shouldn’t cost thousands of dollars to send one campaign email, because then only wealthy candidates or those who group-fundraise in political parties can afford to communicate with the membership. (It does. This cost me $2,901)
  3. Board members who never show up shouldn’t be allowed to keep their seats. (They do.)
  4. Resignations and vacancies should be filled by the next-highest vote-getter, not by appointment. (Obvi, if you value democracy.)
  5. There should be a reasonable limit on how many committees any one member can be on or lead. (There isn’t. Some insiders sit on as many as 17 committees, while 500 members a year are turned away from committee service. Remember those emails you get asking which committees you want to be on? How’d that work out?)

Now here’s where it gets really messed up. When I brought up these proposals in the LA Boardroom, they were referred to the LA Local GRC (Governance Review Committee) for review, and to report back to the board at the next meeting and make a recommendation as to whether or not the board should enact those reforms.

Guess who’s the Chair of the LA GRC? Bill Charlton, the same guy who runs a female or minority celebrity as his proxy to win and give him their seat.

Instead of recusing himself due to conflict of interest since he personally exploits the very election issues my proposals were meant to address, for both his Local and National Board positions, he delayed addressing them in committee for almost a year and ultimately killed all of them.

But not before physically assaulting me at a UnionWorking meeting a year ago in front of 20 witnesses. I asked him to work together instead of against each other. He insulted me. So I asked him why he was delaying my election reform proposals in committee. He called me a “piece of shit.” I called him a coward. Then he reached out and brutally shoved me back. Two other members jumped between us and kept him off me. Then he ran away.

I should have called the police and had him arrested. Then we’d have an official record. He can’t come after me for sharing this with you because it’s the truth and there are witnesses. Plus, he sent an apology to a member of our group the next day, and has admitted it to others.

But, that’s Gabrielle’s right hand man, a corrupt, violent bully. You’ve haven’t elected him since 2013, but he’s been put in top positions of SAG-AFTRA anyway.

You don’t have a choice.

So with all that in mind, here are the main problems with our union and solutions to fix them.


PROBLEM: Political targeting of members with baseless charges meant to intimidate and harass.
Just one example: One of Gabrielle’s political rivals, LA President Jane Austin, was brought up on charges by, you guessed it, Bill Charlton. She defended herself at the cost of over $35,000, was found not guilty by the Disciplinary Review Committee, but because Bill wasn’t happy with the outcome, he appealed decision, making her have to go through it all again. Then, at the next National Board meeting, UFS made sure the National Constitution gave the National Executive Committee, the members of which are chosen by Gabrielle and is stacked with her political allies, the authority to rule on the appeal, instead of the National Board.

That means that her appeal case will be decided by her political rivals behind closed doors. One board member, an attorney, was so disgusted by it, because it’s like having a biased jury of your accusers rule on your case in private, he decided to leave union leadership.

That’s what SAG-AFTRA is like under Gabrielle Carteris.

SOLUTION: We need a new President who will establish a fair leadership culture, and won’t abuse their position to persecute political rivals.


PROBLEM: Gabrielle using communications staff for electioneering and personal Public Relations.
It’s common knowledge within the union that Gabrielle has been using the union’s Communications department and Pam Greenwalt, our Chief Communications & Marketing Officer, as her own private PR firm.

Gabrielle has plastered herself everywhere: the SAG-AFTRA Magazine, our social media accounts, our YouTube channel, and now a podcast started a few months before the election. We have the best broadcasters and voiceover talent in the business, but Gabrielle is the face and voice of the podcast. During election time, our union is prohibited from promoting every other candidate for office, but as the official spokesperson of the union the President can campaign nonstop and there’s nothing we can do about it. It gives the incumbent a huge advantage in consolidating and maintaining power.

During merger, UFS wrote the SAG-AFTRA Constitution that allows her to do this.

SOLUTION: Constitutional and policy change is necessary to hold the member in the Presidency to the same standards as any other candidate for office.


PROBLEM: President not allowing New Business at any of the National Board Meetings.
The President sets the agenda for the four national board meetings we have every year. Our meetings follow parliamentary structure and procedure. After all of the agendized items have been completed, there is supposed to be time set aside for any member of the board to bring up “new business.” This allows board members to introduce topics or make motions for change they think are important for us to consider. This used to be how it was done.

Now, Gabrielle never allows new business in any of the national board meetings, meaning none of your other national leaders can bring anything up or accomplish anything. It’s a huge reason why you’re right to be wondering why we’re not making more progress as a union.

SOLUTION: The President must honor our established meeting procedures and agenda. She should not be allowed to ignore the new business portion of any board meeting under any circumstances. National Board members cannot represent the interests of their constituents if they are never allowed to bring important issues up.


PROBLEM: Appointing political cronies as Committee Chairs, crippling their function
All union business is handled in committees who then report to the board. The leader of a committee is called a “Chair.” The President chooses who Chairs every committee.

It’s not unexpected that Gabrielle would choose her friends and political allies to be the Chairs of the committees during her Presidency, but our members deserve those Chairs to be competent and available to make sure the committees function well, meet on a regular basis, and move the business of the union forward. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Perfect example. UFS insider, Ron Morgan, used to be the Chair of the LA Local Conservatory Committee, for like 8 years. During his chairmanship, the LA Conservatory was in shambles. In fact, he did such a bad job that the LA Local removed him from that position in 2016, the same year I joined the LA Conservatory Committee. Over the past three years, we’ve completely rebuilt the LA Conservatory and turned it into an amazing resource that’s getting better all the time.

But guess who Gabrielle chose as the Chair of the National Conservatory Committee? Ron Morgan. In the four years I’ve been involved with the Conservatory Committee, Ron held only one meeting of the NCC, just a few months ago, and was totally clueless and out of touch with what was happening around the country in our many Local conservatories.

Our members urgently need the best training and resources to compete for work, and yet the one committee responsible for doing that is being led by a totally incompetent political crony, who doesn’t know the first thing about education, nor has the qualifications to develop programming for our members.

Ron is on 18 committees and Chairs 3. That’s SAG-AFTRA under Gabrielle Carteris.

See for yourself. Here’s a spreadsheet I put together with the National and LA Local Committees and who’s on them: http://bit.ly/2MqhK7q

SOLUTION: Governance Reform: There needs to be a limit on the number of committees any one member can be on or Chair. The National and Local Boards need to do a better job of vetting the Chairs proposed by the President before approving them. Perhaps the chairs should not even be chosen by the President, but by the Board or by staff.



PROBLEM: Membership Orientations are not mandatory, include no union governance structure or committee education, lack youth and diversity, and include career-destroying advice.
If you’ve even attended a member orientation in the last few years, you might remember that everyone leading it was over 60 and included no one of color. In addition, they explained nothing about how our union actually works and how you should get involved.

At the one I attended, Ron Morgan (Yup. He’s on that committee too.) told the entire room of our members to audition for non-union projects and when they want to hire you, tell them you’ll only do the job if they turn the production union. Anyone who has worked in casting is probably feeling a burning rage right now. Nothing will destroy your relationship with casting and clients faster than presenting yourself as an option for a job you refuse to do.

SOLUTION: The Member Orientation should be developed by staff to ensure it’s comprehensive and the content is accurate. It needs to include basic information about how our union works so our members understand our governance, contracts, and resources. If the orientation isn’t going to be made mandatory, then orientation videos should be available to our members online. The Member Orientations should be led by a group that is more inclusive and diverse.


PROBLEM: No educational video content to walk members through the contracts, union operations, resources (SAG-AFTRA Local Committees & Member Education, SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Pension, Health, Credit Unions, Actors Fund, & MPTF)
Right now, go on sagaftra.org and see if you can find educational videos and information explaining how our union works as well as the support companies in our union family.

With good leadership, and if our communications staff weren’t so distracted promoting Gabrielle around the world, and making propaganda videos for the National Convention (which locks them up for three months out of the year), you’d think we’d have the best audio and video content, featuring our most recognizable members, walking you through the basics of our union, its rules, our contracts, and the benefits of membership.

SOLUTION: We are the Screen Actors Guild & American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. We should be putting out the best multimedia content on a regular basis educating our members about everything important.


CORRUPT & INCOMPETENT W&Ws (Wages & Working Conditions Meetings)
Case in point: many of you reading this might be asking, “What are W&Ws?”

Before we negotiate or renegotiate any of our union’s contracts, we have an internal process to find out what our members want. SAG-AFTRA has open meetings for, usually, six weeks, where any member can come and share their experiences and make proposals for a better contract. These meetings are called the W&Ws, meaning Wages and Working Conditions.

The proposals made by members are voted on by all the members in attendance. If they pass, they’re added to a list of proposals that are given to the Negotiating Committee. The Negotiating Committee, made up of the President’s picks, decides which proposals from members and staff to fight for when they sit down with our bargaining partners: the producers and advertisers.

Now the problems:

PROBLEM: Politically motivated pre-seating of Negotiating Committee prior to W&Ws
Usually, the Negotiating Committee is filled AFTER the W&Ws are over, so that those who show up consistently and with great ideas can earn a place on the Negotiating Committee. However, Gabrielle broke with decades of established practice and filled up the negotiating committees for both the recent commercial contract and the upcoming TV/Theatrical contract with her friends and allies before the W&Ws, effectively blocking anyone from serving on the committee and thus discouraging participation.

The result? The turnout for the TV/Theatrical W&Ws in LA were abysmal. Often, there were more staff than members in the room. Like 6 of us, trying to help a contract that serves 160,000 of us.

SOLUTION: Negotiating Committees should not be filled until after W&Ws. No one should be able to serve on the committee if they weren’t present for the W&Ws. The Locals, not the President, should choose who, from their Local, they would like to represent them on the negotiating committee. And, while we’re fixing things, the negotiating committee should be required to include at least one member from every category: actors/performers, background performers, dancers, recording artists/singers, stunts, and broadcasters.


PROBLEM: Locals can’t share ideas, or motions proposed and passed in their W&Ws with each other.
Every Local has their own W&Ws, but we can’t see which topics or proposals were made and passed in other Locals. It seems obvious that in order to serve our members across the country, we should be sharing our ideas and learning from each other during this important process.

When I asked Gabrielle directly how it was possible that I, as a board member of this union, am not allowed to see the best ideas from our members around the country while we’re putting together our negotiation package, she had no answer, and when I pressed her on it, she came up with some weird idea that they would put a list together that I could come take a look at, like in a private room. It shouldn’t surprise you that she didn’t deliver on that.

SOLUTION: The W&W process should be structured so that we can hive mind and share the best ideas from every Local with each other. That way our proposals will be smarter, and more effective, with the added bonus that we would be better informed about the issues our members face around the country and feel more connected to each other as one artistic family.


PROBLEM: Reduction of TV/Theatrical W&Ws from six weeks to one week, then nine additional days added after outcry.
As if it needed to be worse, two meetings ago Gabrielle told the national board that instead of six weeks, we would only have one week of W&Ws for the upcoming TV/Theatrical contract negotiations. Bear in mind that the contract doesn’t expire until a year from now. She wanted to start the process early.

The reason she gave us for this was to have a negotiating team ready earlier so we would have the option of negotiating our deal with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) before the DGA (Directors Guild) and the WGA (Writers Guild), something which we never actually do.

Theoretically, the reason why we’d want to negotiate first is because it’s harder for us to negotiate for some things if the DGA and WGA have already struck deals without them. So we get stuck following their “pattern.”

BUT if you negotiate early and can’t strike a deal, you’ve just revealed your cards and can’t strike until the contract expires, which could be months away, giving the producers time to take evasive action and prepare for a strike. That’s why we don’t usually go first or go in early. It’s like shooting a bullet at Neo at the end of The Matrix.

The real, cynical reasons Gabrielle did it was to make sure she’s leading the committee no matter what, because she might lose the Presidency, and the leadership won’t want to change the committee mid-negotiation and lose all the work that has been done. And also to prevent the rest of us in leadership from telling you, the members, what the problems with the TV/Theatrical contract are and how we’re going to fix them because we’re now all under strict confidentiality about which proposals the negotiating committee has chosen to fight for and which it hasn’t. It’s a way to silence your critics right before an election under the excuse of protecting our union’s negotiation strategy. Super smart. Super gross.

She reduced the W&Ws from six weeks to one week, and the meetings were only 3 hours long. That means that our 80,000 LA members had less time than one long day on set to come and make their voices heard on the contract we all moved across the world to work.

The meetings were disorganized and lacked even basic materials for the members who came to effectively participate like…um…A COPY OF THE CONTRACT. Gosh. If only we had the kind of leadership that would make sure we had a copy of the thing we’re all there to discuss, we could move mountains, I tell ya.

Turnout was so bad, and people were so outraged about the lack of communication about these meetings and how short they were, that Gabrielle capitulated and threw together nine, additional topic-controlled days.

SOLUTION: We need a competent President, who values input from the membership, and makes sure we have an effective W&W process, that includes the brilliance of our members nationwide.


PROBLEM: Lead Negotiator has obvious Conflicts of Interest
We don’t want a President who uses the negotiation and W&W process to protect her position and control over the negotiation that affects HER SHOW.

Gabrielle Carteris has effectively used our union’s resources to build her profile and resurrect the show she’s known for, Beverly Hills 90210, which shoots in Vancouver not even the US, by the way, and of which she is an Executive Producer. (https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/bh90210-fox-showrunner-writers-quit-1203218094/)

So, she has changed the traditional negotiation process by rushing it, messing it up, cramming the negotiating committee with her and her people, and silencing her opposition ahead of an election and a negotiation against our employers, including HERSELF.

Some would call that a conflict of interest. The WGA is at war with agencies over the very same principle. On that basis alone, she should resign from the committee. How hard do you think she’s going to fight for us when her profits as the EP on her show will be affected?

SOLUTION: No members should be on the negotiating committee who have conflicts of interest because they are producers of the very content affected by the contract about to be negotiated.



PROBLEM: Theatrical contract containing terms not obeyed by members because they don’t know about them, making thousands of members unintentional violators.
Two years ago, our leadership spent hundreds of thousands of dollars sending us multiple postcards urging us to vote YES on the last TV/Theatrical contract, but they failed to inform our members about basic contract terms. As a result, it’s very likely that you, the one reading this, have violated our contract and if Gabrielle sees you as a threat, she can bring you up on charges and execute you behind closed doors.

Did you know that if you work as a Local Hire anywhere you’re not currently located and travel yourself there, you’ve violated the travel provisions of our contract?

It doesn’t matter if you live in Chicago or New York or Atlanta. If you get hired as a Local Hire and you’re not already there at the time and pay anything to drive or fly there to do the job or put yourself up, you’ve violated our contract.

I’m not arguing the rightness or wrongness of that here; it’s a social dilemma. Members want others to follow rules that they refuse to follow themselves. You shouldn’t undercut a member who’s actually present in a Local by subsidizing the production by paying for your own travel and accommodations. BUT good luck telling a member who is one session fee away from qualifying for health insurance for their family not to do it anyway.

The problem I have with it is that the members do not know these things. No one told them. People think it’s totally fine to work as a Local Hire in other markets. Thousands of members are unknowingly violating our contract. It’s the fault of our leadership to not be educating our members about these basic things. But they’re afraid if they tell you something like this, you’ll be mad at them because that whole situation sucks.

That’s inept, cowardly leadership, to negotiate contract terms our members would never obey, then not tell you about it, and then conveniently prosecute you because they see you as a political threat.

SOLUTION: We should be getting educational videos and materials about all the changes to a contract, both what we gained and what we gave up. And we should make sure that anything we put in a contract is something our members actually want and will honor.


Okay. This sounds boring, but it’s actually a way bigger deal than you might think.

The LA Local only has between 8–10 board meetings a year. The National Board only meets 4 times a year. That’s not a lot of meetings to handle all the stuff we’re blindly trusting our leaders to handle. Those meetings better be as long as they need to be to make sure we’re doing everything we can to help our members live their dreams. It’s what you elected us to do.

I’m telling you from my own experience. Our board meetings are an insult to the membership.

LA Local Board Meetings:
Let’s start with LA Local Board meetings. Board members don’t show up. Meetings are so short because most board members who do show up don’t want to be there because they have nothing to say or contribute. They’re just there for the title and to be a vote for their political party in the room.

Virtually no one presents any ideas to better serve our members because for someone from UFS to propose something would imply they’ve failed somewhere, and Gabrielle and Bill wouldn’t let them anyway, and no one from MembershipFirst does because they’re in the minority and can’t get anything passed.

But you can come see it for yourself. In LA, our board meetings are open to any members who want to come sit in silence and observe. You’d think in a Local with 80,000 members that at least 50 of them would come see how their union is being managed. Nope. Most observer seats are empty at every meeting.

National Board Meetings
The National Board meetings are controlled by just two Locals working together: UFS-controlled LA and their ally USAN-controlled New York. Working in phalanx, the rest of the country is powerless. That gives Gabrielle total control over our National Government, and David White and all our staff have to submit to her. So she can make life miserable for any Local that doesn’t support her in the boardroom.

Sitting in that room has given me a chilling insight as to how governments become corrupt and descend into facism and oppression. If it’s this bad in our little union, how much worse it must be in Washington.

What makes things even worse is that many of the same people that were in power before, during, and after the merger of SAG and AFTRA are still in the National Board room today. The enmity resulting from the merger battle still divides our leadership. Old grudges and suspicions persist.

SOLUTION: We need new National Leadership. Period. We need to clean house. At the very least, a new President, and a new Executive Vice President (EVP).

We need election and governance reform to check National Presidential and National Board power and give more control to our members, Local Boards, and Local Presidents, because right now, the National Board just rubber stamps anything Gabrielle Carteris and Rebecca Damon want. And even our National Executive Director, David White, needs Gabrielle and the National Board’s approval to keep his job, so he’s powerless to go against the UFS/USAN regime, even when he knows they’re wrong.


If there’s one thing I’ve heard from rank and file members, it’s why doesn’t SAG-AFTRA offer a health insurance option that covers the members who don’t earn enough to qualify for Plans I & II. Not only that, but you lose Plans I & II when you need it the most; when you haven’t earned enough as a performer. So, if you’re hurt or pregnant or have to take time off to care for a relative and can’t work as much, you lose your health insurance. It’s not right. The union belongs to all of us, not just the 20% who earn enough to qualify. If a member is willing to pay monthly premiums, let’s find a way to get them covered.

SOLUTION: SAG-AFTRA doesn’t directly control the health plan, but it does choose who sits on the union side of the trustee board of the company that manages the health plan. We need the trustees of the health plan to create this new option or we’ll have to replace them with members who will.


Gabrielle had nothing to do with either the end to the BBH strike or the new Netflix agreement. Her candidate statement claiming credit for them is a total lie. She’s counting on your ignorance to get away with it.

BBH was forced to return to the commercial contract because they lost in court. It was a victory of our legal team, and had nothing to do with Gabrielle. In fact, Gabrielle intentionally undermined the entire strike action by instructing our staff that unless she or Rebecca Damon were present to take credit and get the photo op, no strike actions could take place.

Remember that amazing strike action in front of the offices of BBH in West Hollywood when a thousand of us showed up in force to picket in solidarity? Remember how there wasn’t a single news station there to cover it? That’s because Gabrielle was in Japan and didn’t want anyone else to get the photo op and get credit for it. So, because of her, it’s like the actions of a thousand members never even happened.

We won against BBH in spite of Gabrielle, not because of her. She used it for self-promotion. The credit should go to our amazing legal staff that took the fight to the National Labor Relations Board and successfully enforced our contract with BBH.

The new Netflix agreement was presented to us by our staff in our most recent National Board meeting on July 20th, where they told us that over five days of discussions between Netflix staff and ours about various issues, they somehow ended up negotiating a first-ever contract with them.

No one in our member leadership knew about it or was involved. Not Gabrielle. Not our TV/Theatrical Standing Committee responsible for addressing things like that when they come up. There were no W&Ws. You didn’t have any opportunity to weigh in on it, right? You weren’t even given the opportunity to vote on it, right? Just, poof! We have a contract with Netflix.

Now, that’s both a good and a bad thing.

On the one hand, our staff did a great job of getting some sweet terms from Netflix that will give us powerful leverage in our upcoming negotiation with the AMPTP for the TV/Theatrical contract.

But on the other hand, it’s really messed up because they did it without our involvement and input, so not only is it missing things that are really important to many of our members, but it sets a terrible precedent that in a member-run union, we were given no opportunity to participate in a contract negotiation with one of our biggest employers. That’s not how things are supposed to work.

But Gabrielle had NOTHING to do with that contract or its negotiation, and to claim credit for it is so wrong and it misleads our members about important issues that need to be addressed…LIKE OUR EMPLOYEES NEGOTIATING HUGE CONTRACTS WITHOUT US.

I mean, if our staff prefers to negotiate contracts without our current President involved, and feel they can be more effective that way, maybe that’s a loud and clear message from staff about what kind of President we actually have.

Because in what world do employees make huge deals that involve one of their biggest clients without their boss even knowing about it, much less giving them permission or having input?

Apparently in the world of Gabrielle’s SAG-AFTRA they do.

We’ve got our problems, for sure, but we also have so much to be proud of and a huge opportunity to serve our members better than they’ve ever been served before. The silver lining in all of this bad leadership is that we haven’t yet experienced how powerful our union can be if it is led well.


Here’s how we’re going to make sure our members feel the undeniable value of their SAG-AFTRA membership every single day.

Employment | Quality of Life | Education | Social

1 :: EMPLOYMENT — Help our members build casting, representation, and industry relationships that lead to employment. // COLLABORATE WITH SISTER UNIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS.

The CSA approached the LA Local with a desire to teach classes for our LA Conservatory. Our members are craving access to casting, especially since the top work is packaged by the big 4 agencies (CAA, ICM, WME, UTA) and casting director workshops came under attack last year leading to all but a couple workshop facilities closing. Members nationwide need access to casting and to build those relationships. All we need to do is successfully negotiate that partnership.

For the past two years, we have been producing table reads through the LA Conservatory for WGA writers, cast with our members by CSA casting directors. Expanding that program across the nation is such a simple and powerful way to collaborate with our partners in film-making at the WGA. WGA writers are the most powerful producers of television and films. Building those relationships is both important for both our communities and so easy to do.

So many of our members are seeking representation. SAG-AFTRA absolutely should have the best in-person and digital showcases in the business. We already have a volunteer group developing casting director and agency showcases to help our members get repped and connect with casting. As part of this, we’re developing a monologue database from network TV and feature films, and a monologue class to help members prepare to do their best work for the participating industry pros.

2 :: QUALITY OF LIFE — Help our members with their professional and financial well-being. // SAVE THEM MONEY. MAKE THEM MONEY.

Our LA Conservatory offers free self-taping for members two days a week. We’ve served over 250 members in the last year alone. We need to expand that service to every day and across all our Locals, so our members can save potentially hundreds of dollars a month on another cost pushed onto us by production.

We have over a thousand discounts that can save our members a couple grand a year if they just use them. But they don’t know about them because they’re scattered across four websites: Abenity, UnionPlus, SAG-AFTRA National discounts, and SAG-AFTRA Local discounts.

We need to organize those discounts by type (electronics), brand (Sony), and vendor (Best Buy), and make them easily searchable on the SAG-AFTRA website and mobile app. Then we need to target and negotiate new discounts to save our members money on every expense associated with our industry, like self-taping, the online casting services, gyms, gear rental, and headshots. Those are just a few of so many areas we can organize to save our members money.

It would be an incredible/game-changing support to our members who are parents to provide them with union resources for childcare, so they can drop their kids off when they have an audition or booking and focus on their art. It may take years to navigate and arrive at the right solution, with interim steps, but that’s the goal.

Keep the money in the family. We can build an online directory where members list their side-hustles so members can hire other members for non-performer-related work. Accounting, painting, plumbing, tech support, etc. Hire a fellow SAG-AFTRA member and help them sustain themselves on this journey.

Our members constantly need space to work, rehearse, and collaborate with each other and our partners in film-making. It would be incredible to have a work-space available to our members not unlike a shared work space like WeWork. Our members could benefit from having access to such a space, especially for those who cannot be productive at home due to lack of space, family, roommates, children, neighbors, or other issues.

3 :: EDUCATION — Help our members be the most skilled, experienced, and strategic artists. // MEMBERSHIP NEEDS TO CONTINUE TO STAND FOR QUALITY.

Our union has a duty to coordinate continuing education for our members with our existing National and Local Conservatory structure. We can create strong, vibrant Conservatories across the 25 Locals with live-streamed classes and send our best educators around the country to bring top-tier market expertise to the smaller Locals. This would include self-taping services, studios for on-camera and voice-over classes, with a robust curriculum of craft and business classes available to all members nationwide.

High profile performers are willing to volunteer their time to teach. We just have to ask them. Nothing is as powerful to an aspiring performer as to have one of the greats share their knowledge and craft with them personally, one-on-one. In the past year, we have had Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Matthew Modine, Eric Lutes, Frances Fisher, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Patricia Richardson, Bryan Cranston, Fred Melamed, Ransford Doherty, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., and others guest teach, which was an inspiring interaction for all who were involved.

It would be an incredible resource for the SAG-AFTRA LA Conservatory to have a full indie filmmaking kit available for rental so our members can create content that could change their lives and careers. So often, it’s a lack of access to gear and equipment that stalls content creation. Let’s give our members the tools to tell stories and learn how to tell them better.

For 45 years, the LA Local has worked with the American Film Institute through a partnership with the LA Conservatory. We have the opportunity to expand our members’ opportunities to build relationships with the filmmakers of today and tomorrow by establishing partnerships with USC, UCLA, Chapman, CalArts, and LMU as well. Bringing our members onto campuses to collaborate and giving film students access to the best talent in the business is a game changer for the careers of both.

In the 2018–2019 school year, a group of SAG-AFTRA volunteer educators did a 6 month pilot program for the kids in the drama program at Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills. We can now take that program and meet with the district arts managers of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and bring our craft/business/union education to students all across Los Angeles. After the SAG-AFTRA Foundation cancelled its Bookpals program, over one hundred volunteers were released. There is plenty of volunteer interest in the membership to teach children and college students how to prepare for a career as a professional performer and the value of being a unionist.

4 :: SOCIAL — Help our members make crucial relationships for their personal and professional lives. // OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE FRIENDSHIPS, FIND REHEARSAL PARTNERS, AND FELLOWSHIP.

SAG-AFTRA should have its own expo, bringing in and connecting our members with each other and the best vendors and industry resources, sister union members, panels and workshops, and guest speakers. Expos are a national phenomenon and we have the opportunity to create an event filled with community, fellowship, fun, networking, and education.

SAG-AFTRA should also have it’s own film festival, celebrating the work of our members and our sister unions. We already have our own awards show and film society. We should have our own film festival event that brings our filmmaking community together to honor and discover great union content.

Right now, joining our union is like a bank transaction. You pay your $3k, and they tell you to look for a dense packet of info within a couple weeks. Member Orientations are not mandatory, and the ones we have seriously fail to educate our members about basic aspects of our union’s operations, governance structure, and how to get involved. We have over 100 new joins in the LA Local alone every month. Let’s welcome them with a celebratory brunch where new members can meet and get guidance from a mix of staff and working members. If our newest members know they’re part of our family and get information and guidance, they’ll be more successful, savvy, and loyal unionists.

Those are the best ideas we’ve come up with so far, but if you have a great idea, let me know how I can help you make it a reality. This is your union as much as mine. Let’s make it happen.





NATIONAL PRESIDENT // Matthew Modine or Jane Austin
MembershipFirst (MF) has been so supportive of my efforts to add value to our union, and graciously invited me to run on their slate again this year so I have a chance of serving in leadership. UFS certainly didn’t ask me again this election. Can’t imagine why.

Over the past two years, MF invited me to their meetings even though they know I’m independent, nonpartisan, and am actively working to drive party politics out of our union. I’ve gotten to know Matthew Modine, which has been an honor as he’s one of the most accomplished and qualified performers to ever serve in our union’s leadership. But he’s also a soulful warrior, committed to changing the toxic culture of our leadership so that the most successful members will want to come back and lead our union once again. Believe it or not, he’s already changed the culture of MembershipFirst.

Some of you reading this understandably may have a negative impression of MF members because of their Performers Alliance days and actions around the Commercial Strike of 2000, or when they fought UFS over the merger, or their fierce and vocal opposition to the existing leadership in the decade since.

What I’ve witnessed is that some of MF members were humbled by the lost merger battle, but have since been gaslighted and radicalized by the exclusionary leadership style of former President Ken Howard and now Gabrielle. UFS has the majority and the power, and instead of engaging in meaningful, good-faith discussions with MF members, they treat them like pariahs. They don’t take their legitimate concerns graciously or seriously. In frustration, MF members have resorted to other means to try to affect change, like legal complaints and going to the press, which only drives a deeper wedge between the two sides.

In my view, it’s the responsibility and opportunity of those in power to not just listen to voices of dissent, but value them for the vital role they play in speaking truth to power. Sometimes you need your opposition to point out your shortcomings, because none of your friends may have the incentive to.

I believe Matthew would lead with integrity and that kind of compassion. Peaceful, but strong when necessary. And he hasn’t been in leadership long enough to have decades-old grudges. He has fresh eyes to see what is, and what should be. And he’s open to engaging with us and learning from us, the members. He was lovely with the students the night he came and guest-taught at the LA Conservatory up at AFI, clearly a skilled artist with a passion for teaching, and a generous spirit to volunteer to come share it with his fellow members.

But I love Jane Austin, and know that she would make an great President too. Like any of us, she’s made her fair share of mistakes over her almost 20 years in service to our union, but as LA President she’s also made systemic changes that have transformed the LA Local in amazing ways, only stalled by UFS opposition in the LA Local Boardroom.

Under Jane’s leadership, our member education and LA Conservatory programs have become a beacon of light and love for those fortunate enough to experience it so far. She brought order to a contentious Conservatory Committee, and created a safe space for myself and other educators to rebuild it from the ground up.

I believe Jane deeply cares about the members of this union. She’s accessible. She’s responsive. She tries to find ways to make your ideas work instead of defaulting to shutting ideas down.

Jane was a part of MembershipFirst until late last year, when internal conflicts led to her decision to leave and run as an independent candidate. My wish, as was the case for so many others, was that she and Matthew would find a way to run together instead of in competition with each other, which threatens to divide the opposition to Gabrielle vote. Jane could get 10,000 votes. Matthew could get 10,000 votes, and all Gabrielle would need to win is 10,001. Doesn’t matter that 20,000 members wanted Gabrielle out. The 10,001 who did would get their way.

Regardless of how the election goes, my heartfelt and honest opinion is that either Jane or Matthew would bring much needed change to the Presidency. I hope we get to see that. This position and the LA President position are the only two where I am choosing not to declare clearly to you who I’m voting for because I’m too close to both of the candidates and need to keep it private. I’m in an impossible position. I hope you’ll understand.

I don’t know Jodi as well as others on the MF slate, but she is so genuine, and so nice, and passionate about what’s best for our members. I trust her to oversee our union’s finances. She’s surrounded by friends in leadership that also care deeply about our resources. And of all the candidates, she has the most experience as a leader of this union.

Special Note on Camryn Manheim
I would love to see Camryn get involved in our union before she’s placed into one of the top three leadership positions. There’s a lot to learn about how everything works and even being on the board for a couple years would go a long way to helping members like me learn about her and be willing to trust her with that position. I’m excited that someone of her experience as a performer is interested in serving, but cautious about what she’s been told about the state of our union by Gabrielle. Hopefully, she hasn’t been poisoned to be hostile towards all members who are unsatisfied with Gabrielle’s performance, because I would love to get to know her and support her transition into union leadership in some capacity.

Don’t know Rob at all, and I know Chuck a little from seeing him at Convention two years ago, and exchanging some facebook messages and emails. He and I both wrote resolutions to try to affect change. He seems really fired up and passionate but I’d need to get to know him better before I’d consider supporting him over an established ally like Jodi.


LA LOCAL PRESIDENT // Patricia Richardson or Jane Austin
I’ve already expressed my love and support for Jane Austin. Jane’s done a great job as President of the LA Local. My only criticism would be of her, I think misguided but admirable, attempt at being gracious and non-partisan after the last election by not removing hostile UFS Chairs of Local Committees. That came back to really bite her in the butt and stall the progress of our union. Everywhere she tried to make progress, UFS blocked it. Gabrielle and Rebecca Damon as EVP have done everything in their power to suppress Jane and the ability of the LA Local to serve our members. It’s been completely unfair and disheartening.

Getting to know Patricia Richardson has been one of the highlights of my union volunteerism. Growing up, watching “Home Improvement,” she felt like my TV mom, making me laugh after a tough day. Now, I’ve spent hours in her gorgeous home, which has a heated, freakin’ toilet seat, hearing about her experiences as a performer and union leader over the past decade.

Pat is no limp noodle. She’s a fighter, and she doesn’t lie down in the face of opposition when she sees something that’s not right. She’s one of the most fierce and passionate union leaders we have. She broke her hip when she fell at the La Brea Tar Pits march against BBH, and was back on her feet before you knew it, even FaceTiming from her hospital bed. She’s a force of nature.

She came and guest taught a multi-cam comedy class at our Conservatory, and was such a delight and inspiration to the members lucky enough to attend. Pat is reflective, open to new ideas, eager to embrace good ones, and knows our contracts because she works non-stop, on stage and on-camera.

I know that Pat would be a fearless advocate for the LA Local if she were elected LA President, so I don’t think we can go wrong with either Pat or Jane in that position.

I don’t know Michelle Hurd but I’ve heard she’s cool and nice. She’s a working performer and that’s awesome. She shows up to the National Board meetings, gets up to the mic, and shares her views, which most don’t, so kudos to her for that.

However, I do find it odd that she would want to run for LA Local President because she’s not even on the LA Local Board, and has never attended a meeting even as an observer, so, sadly, to me, her candidacy feels like a strategic attempt by UFS to use a working performer and woman of color to get votes, and if she were to win, she would just be a placeholder for Gabrielle, Rebecca, and Bill’s agenda.

I would really want to hear from her about why that perception wouldn’t be accurate, and what her vision for the LA Local is. I’m open to being persuaded that she’s a viable candidate. Still, unless her reasons were really compelling, we already have two devoted and experienced LA warriors in Pat and Jane.

Queen seems super nice, and I give her total credit for coming and attending our LA Local Board meetings as an observer. She sets a great example of being an engaged member. I just don’t know her well enough to support her over Jane, Pat, or even Michelle. And I don’t think she has the relationships or leadership experience in the LA Local yet to warrant leading it.

Over the past two years, I have gotten to know David and Frances well. Spent hours upon hours talking through the various issues that affect our union and coming up with solutions to solve them and educate our members about them.

Frances is a legendary performer, another force of nature, always flying around the country in between acting jobs to throw her body against the machine, whether standing up for Standing Rock, fighting for fair treatment of immigrants, or advocating for women in the #MeToo / #TimesUp era. And Frances just has a magnetic personality. She’s so cool. I hope I’m half as badass as she is when I grow up. Frances has served in leadership for 20 years. It’s remarkable that after all the discouraging results of UFS control for a decade that she still has the fire in her belly to want to continue to serve.

I had heard about David Jolliffe for years before I got to meet him. The first time we met was at Pat Richardson’s house, where he sat with me for two hours and educated me on the history of our union, and how we got to where we are today. The man has spent countless hours over 25 years, served on many negotiation committees, and personally invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight for our union to the best of his ability. David is a miracle and the heartbeat of the rank and file membership of our union. He knows our contracts sometimes better than our staff.

David is beloved by the commercial community and played a key role in the recent ground-breaking commercial contract, both as the Co-Chair of the Commercial Contract Negotiating Committee and as a consistent participant in the UnionWorking meetings that prepared us for the historic negotiation.

David is a treasure of institutional knowledge, physically unable to stay silent when he sees anything he perceives to not be in our best interest, endlessly generous with his time and money, and compassionate with and devoted to every category of our membership. I don’t know anyone who cares more about every category of our membership, including Broadcasters and the background community. I think David would make a great National President of our union, and I hope we get to see it someday.

I have never seen Clyde speak at a Local or National Board Meeting. I know he used to be LA President six years ago. It was under his watch that one of the most egregious perversions of our Local election system was put in place. Two years ago, he lied in his candidate statement about being an “enthusiastic champion” supporter of our LA Conservatory. In my four years of service in the Conservatory, Clyde’s never done a single thing for it. I’d be surprised if he could list one class we offer. I don’t trust him and don’t think he’s a safe option for us.

I really like Ellen, even though she’s so hostile to me, for no good reason I can ascertain other than that I ran for election with the other political party. Ellen is a tireless leader and clearly passionate about our union. I just wish she wasn’t so partisan that she could see me and members like me for who we are, not judge us for running on one of the two slates we’re essentially forced to run on if we want the opportunity to serve. I think Ellen is an asset to our union, and I hope she opens her heart to opposing voices at some point. Then, maybe she’d make a good Vice President.


#12 Patricia Richardson // I’ve already sung Pat’s praises. If Pat doesn’t win as LA President, hopefully it’s because Jane won. In that case, I would want her in the boardroom to make sure we stay on target. She won’t let us forget why we’re there: to serve and protect the membership.

#17 Shaan Sharma // In the past two years, I have worked hard with our LA Local staff to rebuild our LA Conservatory into an amazing resource that is only getting better, with 40 classes a month, taught by vetted and qualified instructors, free self-taping, table reads in collaboration with the WGA, The Black List, Coverfly, and the CSA, and managing 60 members across a dozen volunteer groups executing on the Four Areas of Action I listed above.

I’ve been a core member of UnionWorking, supporting our union’s efforts that led to the new commercial contract. We’ve also organized the first-ever Presidential Town Hall on August 15th, where Gabrielle, Matthew, and Jane will answer questions from the membership.

In the boardroom, I’ve been focused on reforming our election and governance system, and working to add resources to our Local that add value to membership. I engaged in the TV/Theatrical W&Ws and brought the best of my ideas and those suggested to me by members to that process.

I hope I’ll be able to build on that service and continue to serve our membership in boardroom.

#23 Jonathan Taylor Thomas // Getting to know Jonathan has also been a highlight for me over the last two years in service. We’ve spent hours, late at night, talking about how to heal the divide between the political parties, and brainstorming ways to educate and serve our membership. Jonathan is a peaceful spirit. He really cares about taking care of a community that has been very good to him. I worry about the toxic culture in our current leadership driving members like Jonathan away from service. I’m glad to see him running again. He shows up. And he came and guest-taught at the Conservatory last year and couldn’t have been more humble and supportive. I’m honored to call him a new friend and union ally.

#29 David Villar // I’ve been putting David on tape at commercial auditions for many years. He’s a working actor, and awesomely devoted to our union’s governance. He consistently attends our Local Board meetings as an observer. That means a lot to me. David seems to be a level-headed and gracious person, and I think he deserves an opportunity to distinguish himself in a leadership position. I hope he wins. And he’s a great actor. He participated in one of our table reads and was really great.

#30 Katie Von Till // I. LOVE. KATIE. Part of why I make an effort to separate my judgment of Gabrielle and her inner circle from the rest of the people who identify as Unite for Strength is because of leaders like Katie. I couldn’t care less which party she’s with. Our union would be in great hands with her as President of our Local or National body at some point. I hope we can make the boardroom a more peaceful and effective use of our time, because it almost drove Katie away from board service and that would have been a terrible loss. Katie masterfully Co-Chaired the Commercial Negotiation Committee with David Jolliffe, showed up everywhere she was needed, even through terrible illness at points. She’s a warrior for us, and I’m excited that we might get to serve another couple years together in leadership.

#31 Katie Wallack // I don’t know Katie Wallack as well as I know KVT above, but I’ve been putting her on tape for years in commercial casting, and Katie’s always been lovely. She was instrumental in the success of the recent commercial contract, and gave the funniest informative presentation about it at a UnionWorking meeting that was a highlight of those meetings for me. Katie’s cool. She’s experienced. She’s already sacrificed for our union and gone to battle for us, and came home with a win. I’d like to see what she can do in the boardroom.

#35 Pete Antico // Two years ago, if you would have asked me if I would be supporting Pete Antico, I would have said, “That guy? Really?” But having gotten to know Pete these last two years, I can tell you that he’s insanely passionate about protecting the membership, and keeping our leadership honest. He’s devoted to people standing up for what they believe in. He’s spent tons of his own money and time to try to educate our members about financial issues affecting our union and our pension and health plans. He’s been fighting in every board meeting for our union to adopt cutting edge technology to make us for efficient, and perhaps even make us money. I’ve come to love Pete, even if he is abrasive and aggressive and unreasonable at times. He’s tireless. And I think having people like Pete in the Boardrooms, who are unafraid to call people out, keeps people on their toes. It makes it harder for corruption to exist with member leaders like him around. He’s even hard on me, and I appreciate that.

#37 Jane Austin // If Jane doesn’t win LA President, hopefully it’s because Pat won. In that case, it would be great to have Jane in the Local Boardroom to have another strong, knowledgeable, independent-minded voice in the room. After two terms as LA President, no one knows the LA Local better than Jane.

#38 Jessica Barth // I don’t know Jessica, yet, but we could use more artists like her, with the courage and leadership she’s shown in the #MeToo movement, in union service. We need fresh eyes and hearts in the boardroom, and so if she’s interested in taking on that responsibility, I’d like to see what she can do.

#43 Neve Campbell // I don’t know Neve, but I’m very excited that such an accomplished performer is interested in getting involved in union leadership. I would love to see what she brings to the boardroom, and I would love to work with her to create a culture that attracts more of our high-profile members back into service.

#50 Tom Choi // Tom was also brilliant and instrumental in the recent commercial contract process. He’s always respectful and productive in board meetings and shows up where he’s needed. I think Tom is fair and experienced and I love having him in leadership. I think he adds great value.

#51 Chantal Cousineau // I know Chantal isn’t happy with my vocal opposition to Gabrielle. I can understand why. She’s worked with Gabrielle on sexual harassment work, and pleased with that relationship, but she hasn’t been in union leadership to see what I’ve seen. Gabrielle and Bill were both charming to me at first until I chose not to run on their slate. But Chantal has clearly demonstrated that she’s a warrior for what’s right, and I believe she’ll do what’s best for the membership, and not just obey the UFS/USAN inner circle. I think she deserves a chance to show us what kind of leader she can be in our politically divided boardroom.

#52 Tiffany Yvonne Cox // I met Tiffany when she first arrived in LA from Chicago. A couple years later, when I was calling around my network, asking industry professionals I respected if they knew anyone that they thought would make a great leader for our union, Tiffany’s name came up. And she and I had some great conversations about what board service is like. I’m glad she’s running. I think she’ll add great value if elected. Like many others, she doesn’t deserve to be painted with the same brush as the UFS inner circle.

#55 Joe D’Angerio // Joe and I haven’t always seen eye to eye, because he’s a staunch MembershipFirst party man, and hasn’t always been comfortable with my insistence on my independence. But I know Joe deeply cares about the members of this union. Joe generously took an interest in our LA Conservatory and was responsible for getting us amazing guest teachers, like Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Matthew Modine, and Eric Lutes. Joe’s friendship with Matthew brought him into union service, and I believe that could be the first step of a sea change in which, if we’re lucky, we’ll have the opportunity to bring our most powerful members back into leadership, and it will have started with Joe. He deserves much credit for that.

#59 Ben Dukes // I haven’t known Ben long, and I already love him. He was at every day of the TV/Theatrical W&Ws. He’s jumped in to grassroots efforts to educate our members and solve our union’s problems. I think Ben is an exciting, new face in our union’s halls, and think he’d be a wonderful asset to the boardroom. I really hope we get the chance to serve together.

#60 Debbie Evans // Not only is Debbie a legend in her field of stunts, she’s a lovely person, and a committed and passionate union leader. She deeply cares about protecting our members and educating them about our contracts and union. When Debbie speaks, people listen. She’s been a supportive voice on my behalf when I’ve been pressured to be partisan. That’s what good leaders do. Stand up for what’s right.

#61 Greg Evigan // Greg is always a positive and calm voice in leadership. He is responsible for opening my eyes about the abuse of self-taping, and how they’re a cost of production that has been pushed onto the performer. Greg has been working to provide our members with self-taping solutions while we solve the bigger issue of the practice being abused by producers. Greg’s the only board member who calls me for an update when he’s had to miss a meeting. He’s an accomplished performer and brings a lot of historical perspective into the room. I hope he continues to do so.

#64 Marie Fink // Marie is fearless. She speaks for what she thinks is right, even if she knows it’s going to be a tough battle. Marie has put in so much time to help identify and articulate the problems our union faces and how we’re going to solve them. She created a great PDF that walks our members through our union governance structure. She shows up and makes her voice heard in every meeting. I really respect Marie. I hope we can give her reason to smile more.

#65 Frances Fisher // I’ve already expressed my adoration for Frances. I hope she serves our LA Local as a Vice President, but if not, we need her in the room as a Board Member.

#72 Elliott Gould // Like Neve, I don’t know Elliott personally, but he marched with us in front of the BBH offices and I’ve heard for years what a staunch supporter of our union he is. I’m thrilled he is interested in leadership and hope we can work together to bring more artists of his experience level into union service.

#73 Pamela Guest // Pam is devoted to protecting our members from sexual harassment and ensuring intimacy is handled professionally on sets. She’s a casting professional as well as a performer, and I have great respect for her. She feels deeply and speaks up in defense of our union and doing things ethically and respectfully. She’s active in leadership and adds clear value.

#74 Richard Hadfield // Richard may be soft-spoken, but he’s vigilant. He is very knowledgeable about our union’s history and contracts. He is an advocate for our background performers and isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, gently but persistently, in the boardroom.

#75 Brian Hamilton // I appreciate having Brian in the boardroom for a similar reason I appreciate having Pete Antico there. Brian doesn’t shy away from calling things out and connecting dots. Sometimes, it’s reading too far into things, but sometimes it’s right on the money, and someone needed to have the courage to say it. Our union has had its share of real conspiracies; from election fraud to embezzlements. Brian is on the lookout.

#76 Linda Harcharic // Linda leads by example, with grace, but with assertiveness. She’s tireless and always advocates for what is right and for the background community. She’s a stateswoman, and I appreciate how she balances calling out what’s wrong and acknowledging what’s right.

#77 Louis Herthum // I am so thrilled that Louis decided to run. You wouldn’t want to be sitting across from him in a negotiation. He’s charming and cool, but not one to back down from a conflict. Though he’s busier as a working actor than ever before, he has carved out so much time to discuss the issues affecting our union, our leadership, galvanize volunteers and member leaders, and put his money where his mouth is. Having Louis in the boardroom would ensure that our leadership can’t hide from accountability for their actions. Getting to know Louis has been one of the major highlights of my volunteerism.

#78 Jennae Hoving // I think my fellow Minnesotan, Jennae, deserves a chance to serve in the boardroom. She’s thoughtful, open, and present. She is really with you when you’re with her. She gives you her total attention unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Gentle, but does her homework and knows what she’s talking about. I think she would bring calm and order to the boardroom. You wouldn’t want to make Jennae sad. That would be like punching a baby. Just wrong.

#80 David Jolliffe // I’ve already made my opinion of DJ clear. Hopefully he’ll be in the boardroom as a VP. If not, having him in Local leadership is a blessing for our Local and our union.

#81 Matt Kavanaugh // I love Matt. The gentle giant. He speaks up and fights for what is right. He’s a huge advocate for the background community and had my back in a huge way waging the battle for election reform. Matt’s very active on social media, engaging in discussions with our members and impacting the conversation. I know I can count on Matt to show up for our union, have an open mind, and to disagree with me when my head is in the clouds.

#85 Donna Lynn Leavy // Though I don’t know Donna as well as others, what impresses me about Donna is her willingness to speak up and challenge her friends. She supported and protected me in tough meetings when I was being pressured to sell myself out, which I’ll never forget. Another grand stateswoman in service. I think her presence in leadership helps to maintain fairness and order.

#86 Joanna Leeds // Joanna is experienced, observant, and brings her concerns to the floor of the boardroom in a thoughtful, non-confrontational way. I’m excited to see how she continues to grow into a stronger voice in leadership. She shows up, and takes an interest in the issues, exploring them before acting. Other leaders could learn from her restraint.

#87 Jen Levin // Jen has been at every UnionWorking meeting, adding her talents and efforts to what led us to our recent successful commercial contract. I’m a huge fan of members who show up outside of official union meetings to take care of each other. I would love to have Jen’s presence and point of view in the boardroom.

#90 Elaine Loh // I really love having Elaine’s voice in leadership. I always trust that she has an open mind, votes her conscience, and challenges me to be my best self in the boardroom. She shows up, asks questions, is willing to discuss things and talk with those with whom she disagrees. Those are all great leadership qualities.

#91 Jodi Long // I’ve already sung Jodi’s praises. I hope she’s our new Secretary-Treasurer as well as a continued voice in the LA Local Boardroom.

#92 Kurt Lott // Kurt’s like the father we’d all love to have. He leads by example, and is gentle but assertive. He’s got a remarkable career, knows our union well, is passionate about solving our problems, and brings all that wisdom into leadership with respect. I owe my current seat to his generosity. I hope to serve on my own merits this time and the chance for it to be alongside Kurt.

#94 Anthony Marciona // Anthony shows up. Like David Villar, Anthony has attended every Local Board meeting as an observer, which means a ton. Though not in an official position of leadership, he’s put in tons of time, helping craft the platform of MF, and is an advocate for the Dancers in our union. I’d like to see what Anthony can bring to the boardroom.

#95 Rick Markman // I met Rick when Ron Ostrow connected us to help develop the programming of the LA Conservatory for background performers. Rick is respected amongst his peers and has an affable, generous demeanor that would add to the civility of the boardroom. He’s very experienced, works all the time, and cares about educating our members. I would be honored to serve with him.

#96 Kevin McCorkle // I can’t say enough about this man. If it weren’t for Kevin, I wouldn’t be in union service. My dear friend and a mentor of mine, Kevin is a walking billboard of the value of being a union member. He’s had a great, sustained, successful career, and owes his life to the health insurance provided by our union. No one is a more devoted advocate for SAG-AFTRA. He’s knowledgeable, beloved in our community, and a uniting presence. We could use that in leadership. As the Co-Chair of the LA Conservatory, his leadership has allowed our resource to thrive. I remember the two of us building the false wall in the camera studio at AFI together. We were so excited to create a state of the art studio for our members to learn in. Kevin is willing to put in the grunt work and lead from the front. My man.

#97 Matthew Modine // I’ve already shared my affection and appreciation for Matthew. If he’s not the President of our union, I certainly hope he’ll continue to build his leadership experience in the LA Boardroom.

#98 Esai Morales // Esai is a phenomenal performer and a devoted unionist. He has already stepped up twice, in the midst of a thriving career, and sought to provide his charming, humble leadership as President of our union. At the very least, we benefit from having his talent and energy in the LA Local boardroom. His long history of service makes him an invaluable resource because nothing surprises him. His eyes are wide open.

#99 Gaye Nelson // Gaye is just lovely and supportive. She’s been a member longer than some of you grandparents have been alive. She shows up and observes our Local Board meetings and offers up her home for additional meetings to develop our community of volunteers. I think Gaye would add a loving, matronly presence to our leadership.

#102 Ron Ostrow // Ron is one of my favorite union leaders. Period. He’s brilliant, fearless, utterly devoted to our union, knows parliamentary procedure better than anyone, is always available and helpful to answer questions, craft language, and even joined us for one of our table reads, where he was a joy to watch in performance. If David Jolliffe is the heart of rank and file membership, Ron is its brain. Ron will call out any bad behavior, from friend or adversary, and leads by example. He always keeps the boardroom focused on fair dealing and proper procedure. He’s the referee we all need in leadership.

Anyone not listed above is because I don’t know enough about them to support them over those I did. The exception would the following people, who, in my experience, are toxic and divisive in leadership. My humble advice to the membership is to cycle them out: William (Bill) Charlton, Ben Whitehair, Clyde Kusatsu, Jenny O’Hara, Gabrielle Carteris, and Ellen Crawford.

Watch for them to be put into leadership positions anyway, even if you don’t vote them in.


#103 Danielle Towne // Danielle is lovely and devoted to fighting for the Dancers in our union. She’s made time to meet with me, multiple times, and educate me on the issues they face, and collaborate on solutions and resources to better serve them. I would love to see Danielle continue to bring her thoughtful, gentle, but tireless and assertive spirit into our union’s leadership.


#105 Patricia Richardson // Already stated my love for Pat.

#109 Jonathan Taylor Thomas // Same with Jonathan.

#112 Ed Asner // I think it would be really helpful to have a legend and former SAG President in the National Boardroom. I don’t know Ed, but I know he’s a devoted unionist.

#113 Jane Austin // Love Jane.

#114 Jessica Barth // Same reason I support her for Local Board.

#115 Jennifer Beals // I don’t know Jennifer, but I am excited someone with her experience would be interested in serving our union. She’s already an advocate for social causes. I would love to see her make her voice heard in our National Boardroom, and hopefully attract for high-profiles into union service.

#116 Yvette Nicole Brown // Yvette stepped up and participated in one of UnionWorking’s celeb-support videos, lending her face and voice to the efforts that led to our new commercial contract. I used to audition Yvette for commercials. I’m thrilled about her success, and I’d love to have her voice in National leadership.

#118 Neve Campbell // Same reason as for Local.

#121 Tom Choi // Tom as well.

#126 Debbie Evans // Yup. Debbie’s the best.

#128 Frances Fisher // I mean, Frances is the best.

#133 Elliott Gould // Same as for the Local.

#134 Pamela Guest // Pam too.

#135 David Jolliffe // David three.

#139 Jodi Long // On Team Jodi.

#140 Kurt Lott // And Team Kurt as well.


#147 Lamonte De Carlo Goode // This is a tough one, because I don’t know Lamonte at all, and I love Bobbie Bates. But watching Bobbie in the boardroom; her party neglects her and the needs of our Dancers. She’s so sweet but demoralized that she lets them steamroller over her. I think the Dancer category needs a new, strong voice in the National Boardroom, even without Bobbie’s long history of experience and service record. Our categories, especially the smaller ones like Dancers, need a fearless warrior in leadership who won’t let their needs be neglected. I wish Danielle Towne were running for National Board for the Dancers, because she would be my first choice.


#150 Brewster Parsons — Amazing Conservatory volunteer leader.

#151 Stephen Peluso — Observes board meetings like a champ.

#153 Lauren Peterson — Lovely member.

#154 Russell Petrakos — Conservatory volunteer

#155 Alan Pietruszewski — Very involved in serving our military veteran members.

#169 Sarah Scott — Warrior against sexual harassment.

#170 Shea Scullin — Lovely man.

#172 Shaan Sharma — Me!

#179 David Sobolov — Passionate unionist.

#184 Alan Starzinski — UnionWorking attendee.

#186 Bob Stephenson — Instrumental in the new commercial contract. UnionWorking.

#193 Maureen Sullivan — LA Local volunteer and Board meeting sergeant-at-arms.

#194 Amir Talai — Awesome guy. Great performer. Engaged unionist.

#198 Jonathan Taylor Thomas — Love Jonathan.

#201 Stacey Travis — Really like and respect Stacey. Accomplished performer.

#204 Armand Vasquez — Active and engaged member and aspiring leader.

#208 David Villar — Active and engaged member and aspiring leader too.

#210 Katie Von Till — Hopefully a future union President.

#211 Katie Wallack — Instrumental in the new commercial contract.

#214 Kevin E. West — Huge advocate for our profession and members. UnionWorking.

#216 Bruce Wexler — Experienced performer and engaged member.

#227 Kevin Ashworth — Brilliant and instrumental in our commercial contract. UnionWorking.

#228 Ed Asner — Former SAG President.

#229 Jane Austin — LA President.

#230 James Babbin — Kind, engaged, and supportive member.

#233 Jessica Barth — Hopefully, a new union leader.

#236 Jodie Bentley — Wonderful person. Glad she’s interested.

#240 Charlie Bodin — My new friend. Let’s get him into leadership soon.

#241 Michelle Bonilla — Wonderful, thoughtful person, and already leading.

#242 Sean Michael Boozer — Engaged and active member.

#244 Laura Linda Bradley — Also an engaged and active member on the younger side.

#246 Ivar Brogger — Accomplished performer.

#247 Jen Faith Brown — Conservatory head of Singers education.

#249 Rob Brownstein — Commercial teacher and accomplished performer.

#251 Jules Bruff — Accomplished performer and lovely person.

#254 Jennifer H. Caldwell — Engaged and active member.

#256 Neve Campbell — High-profile. Glad she’d be interested.

#265 Parvesh Cheena — Longtime board member and accomplished performer.

#266 Tom Choi — Awesome union leader.

#276 Chantal Cousineau — Courageous warrior looking to bring her talents to our leadership.

#277 Tiffany Yvonne Cox — Driven and brilliant new aspiring union leader.

#282 Joe D’Angerio — Long history of devoted service.

#290 Jenna Doolittle — An educator and leader already. Love Jenna.

#291 Susie Duff — Amazing woman. A fearless, tireless warrior for your pension.

#293 Ben Dukes — Let’s get Ben into leadership too. Devoted unionist.

#306 Frances Fisher — One of my favorite people. Don’t mess with Frances.

#307 Rob Roy Fitzgerald — Instrumental in our new commercial contract. UnionWorking.

#314 Lee Garlington — Grand Dame of LA Local Education. Accomplished performer.

#315 Spencer Garrett — Accomplished performer and current board member.

#323 Elliott Gould — Legendary performer.

#326 Nicholas Guest — Accomplished performer. Glad Nicholas is interested.

#327 Pamela Guest — Amazing union leader already.

#328 Richard Hadfield — Warrior for background.

#329 Brian Hamilton — Current board member and accomplished performer.

#331 Linda Harcharic — Stateswoman unionist.

#332 Samantha Hartson — Tireless advocate for background.

#335 Lauri Hendler — Force of nature. Huge warrior for our union and earnings.

#336 Jack E. Herman — Level-headed and just. Statesman unionist.

#337 Louis Herthum — Accomplished performer/warrior.

#342 Jennae Hoving — Thoughtful volunteer and aspiring leader.

#343 Kym Jackson — Brilliant woman, performer, and educator. Conservatory instructor.

#344 Matthew Jaeger — Instrumental in new commercial contract. UnionWorking.

#348 David Jolliffe — DJ all day.

#355 Mary Karcz — Devoted unionist and shows up. Future leader.

#357 Matt Kavanaugh — The amazing gentle giant.

#360 Mobin Khan — Active and engaged member.

#371 Donna Lynn Leavy — Stateswoman and current leader.

#372 Joanna Leeds — Current leader and amazing performer.

#373 Jen Levin — UnionWorking volunteer.

#375 Nancy Linari — Instrumental in new commercial contract. UnionWorking.

#378 Elaine Loh — Love Elaine. Current board member.

#379 Jodi Long — Love Jodi. Current board member.

#380 Kurt Lott — Love Kurt. Wouldn’t be on the board without him.

#387 Anthony Marciona — Devoted unionist.

#389 Rick Markman — Passionate about education for background.

#394 Kevin McCorkle — My dear friend and mentor.

#396 Elizabeth McLaughlin — Current leader and advocate for young performers.

#402 Aubrey Mozino — Lovely person. Supports our members creating content.

#404 Rosemary Napoli — Conservatory volunteer.

#405 Gaye Nelson — Longtime active and engaged member.

#406 Mike C. Nelson — Instrumental in commercial contract. UnionWorking.

#408 Jake O’Flaherty — Active, supportive, and engaged member.

#413 Ron Ostrow — My favorite parliamentarian.

If you’ve read this far, I applaud you. Something in my heart told me that I needed to share everything I could with our members in this election. It may have been too much, but it’s what I needed to do.

I’m in this profession and union for the long haul. Volunteering for SAG-AFTRA is now part of my DNA. I hope I can play a positive role in shaping the future of our union, our greater filmmaking community, and our profession.

I only have one goal: to make our union membership so tangibly valuable that we feel it and appreciate it every day. In order to get there, we have a lot of work to do and we need to have the kind of leadership that is focused on serving the members, not just themselves.

In UnionWorking, we often cite this quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I encourage you to take ownership of our union and add your talents and brilliance to the ongoing mission of helping our members live their dreams of supporting themselves and their loved ones with only their art.

I’ve learned that one person can make an enormous difference, but that one person cannot make all the difference.

Let’s all act like we care.

Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit,

In Solidarity,
Shaan Sharma