UPDATE, 7:45PM: EXCLUSIVE: SAG-AFTRA Executive Director David White may be a candidate to head up the NBA players union, but he’s still got a big supporter in the head of the Hollywood union. “Just as it was with their opposition to merger, MembershipFirst remains out of touch with members,” SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard told me tonight of the faction’s slam of White’s potential new gig. “Executives of David White’s caliber are rare, and informed SAG-AFTRA members are thrilled to have David leading the preparations for our upcoming contract talks,” Howard added. The SAG-AFTRA chief gave no indication of what the union’s plan would be if White got the NBA players union job. However, with SAG-AFTRA still in its mandated wages and working condition consultation with members and likely weeks away from even setting a start date for its talks with the studios and networks over a new three year contract, the union has time to regroup as it heads into the first such negotiations since its spring 2012 merger.
UPDATE: SAG-AFTRA President Slams Union Faction, Praises NED David White For Upcoming Contract Talks
The initial suit may have been severely trimmed, but the multimillion-dollar lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA by former SAG president Ed Asner and the 15 members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee now has a trial date: June 24, 2014. District Judge Manuel Real set the date today (read it here), 10 days after the federal judge granted SAG-AFTRA’s motion to dismiss large portion of the suit over $130 million in allegedly improperly dispersed foreign residuals. The plaintiffs first filed their suit on May 24. The union has called the claims “completely without merit” and a “virtual verbatim restatement” of the 2007 class action by Ken Osmond of Leave It To Beaver fame and other actors accusing SAG of not properly paying out $8.1 million in overseas royalties. That case was resolved in 2010 with a settlement. Still, Judge Real did not cut residuals from the current case and has given three of the original 16 plaintiffs who opted out of the Osmond settlement the right to move forward on unpaid claims. The judge also kept the name of the union’s Executive Director David White and his past associations with a convicted fraudster in the suit, something SAG-AFTRA sought to strike. Plaintiff’s lawyer Helena Wise said last week that she also is thinking about launching an action of breach of fiduciary duty and corruption …
Unsurprisingly, the former union president and the other plaintiffs in their lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA claiming the union had not properly disbursed $110 million in foreign residuals don’t agree with the union’s desire to dismiss the bulk of the case or strike a portion of it. In a series of filings late Monday and early today (read them here & here & here), Ed Asner and the other 15-members of the self-titled United Screen Actors Committee allege an “extreme web these parties have woven to steal money that rightfully belongs to U.S. performers, if not others as well.” The plaintiffs are urging the federal court to reject the motions SAG-AFTRA filed back on July 31 in response to their initial suit. “Ironically, the very statements which Defendants want to strike portray a Union and its leadership, as well as Labor Consultants, clearly indifferent to federally mandated LMRDA requirements requiring transparency and accountability in Union finances, as well as access to Union contracts, not to mention the right to timely learn about and to vote upon whether to ratify or reject such contracts,” the 10-age opposition to motion to strike also notes.
With the union preparing to tally votes next week for its first national election since the merger, SAG-AFTRA‘s recent annual report shows both an increase in its national director’s pay and the organization’s debt. The 448-page report (read it here) shows that David White‘s pay increased 15% in fiscal 2012 to $541,000. The exec director, who shared responsibilities with the now-departed Kim Roberts Hedgpeth, made $470,500 during the previous fiscal year. While White’s pay went up, SAG-AFTRA’s debt also rose during fiscal 2012, which ended April 30. The report submitted to the Department of Labor shows that the union owes $132.26 million in “funds held in trust for others.” That’s up by nearly a third from the $100.48 million it reported in the same category for the previous fiscal year. The report offers no breakdown as to why the sum increased. “The increase in these funds is primarily due to more and larger producer’s deposits received over the last fiscal year,” said a union spokesperson today. The report, with its increases in staff expenditures and such owed amounts, comes as the union is being sued by former SAG president Ed Asner and others for $110M in allegedly unpaid foreign residuals.
Things are about to get leaner at the thespian union. Approximately 15% of SAG-AFTRA’s 600 staff members will be heading out the door in the next few days. About 80 union employees have taken buyouts. A few of those who are leaving as full time employees will be staying for a while as short-term consultants. Deadline has learned that those leaving come equally from both the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists parts of the recently united union. “When you bring together two staffs with similar responsibilities and duties, there is naturally going to be some overlap and redundancy. This program is helping us get our staffing levels right in a way that is respectful and reflects our priorities going forward. It’s only one piece of the continuing integration of our merged union,” said the union’s National Executive Director David White today. White should know about such overlap. Just one month after the unions voted on March 30 to become one, former AFTRA director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth stepped down from the Co-National Executive Director position she had started sharing with White. Signing a new three-year contract, White formally became the union’s sole Executive Director in late May.
On the recommendation of the union-wide national officers and the Executive Committee, the National Board confirmed David P. White in his role as National Executive Director and authorized his new three-year contract in that capacity, expiring May 21, 2015.
“I am pleased with the Board’s action and am grateful for their vote of confidence. We’ve achieved a tremendous success with our recent merger, but there is much more to be done and I look forward to working with the officers, directors and our talented staff team to continue to improve our operations and further empower and serve the members of SAG-AFTRA,” White said.
“David has clearly shown his management acumen and ability to direct our organization and lead our staff in implementing critical operational initiatives. There is no better person to lead SAG-AFTRA and we are thrilled that he will continue as national executive director,” said Co-Presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon.
SAG-AFTRA will hold its first board meeting as a single entity May 19-20 in Los Angeles. No agenda has been set. It will be the first official function for the board since SAG and AFTRA voted to merge the two unions March 30. On Monday, the union announced that former SAG National Executive Director David White will be the group’s sole NED and former AFTRA NED Kim Roberts Hedgpeth was stepping down April 30.
This makes SAG-AFTRA Co-National Executive Director David White the sole NED of the newly merged union.
LOS ANGELES, CA – April 16, 2012 – SAG-AFTRA today announced that Kim Roberts Hedgpeth has decided to step down as SAG-AFTRA Co-National Executive Director on April 30, after 31 years of service to union performers, recording artists and broadcast professionals working in the entertainment and news media industries.
“It was with great pride and enormous satisfaction that I joined union members, colleagues, and staff on March 30th to celebrate the overwhelming vote in favor of the merger of AFTRA and SAG,” said Hedgpeth. “Having achieved this important goal, for which many of us worked tirelessly for so many years, now is the right moment to begin a new chapter in life. I am grateful for the love, respect, and support of our staff and leadership team. And I know the SAG-AFTRA membership will be well served under the leadership of Co-National Presidents Ken Howard and Roberta Reardon and National Executive Director David White.”