After one of the most openly hostile guild elections in recent Hollywood memory, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris pulled out a victory over challenger Matthew Modine, ensuring the continued control of Hollywood’s actors guild by the Unite For Strength party for at least the next two years.
The “Beverly Hills 90210” star won 44% of the 30,837 votes cast (or 13,537), the union said, while Modine won 35% (or 10,682), SAG-AFTRA reported early Thursday. Jane Austin followed with 5,048 votes, Queen Alljahye Searles with 1,096 votes and Abraham Justice with 367 votes.
In addition, “The Practice” star Camryn Manheim was elected as secretary-treasurer with 52% of the ballots cast (16,047 votes), defeating Jodi Long (10,251), Chuck Slavin (2,204) and Rob Stats (1,790).
“I’m very grateful to all of the dedicated SAG-AFTRA members who participated in our union’s elections,” Carteris said in a statement. “Their support is humbling and I vow to fight every day on their behalf. We will keep building on our commitment to honesty, transparency and a strategic vision that protects our members, strengthens our contracts, and fortifies our union.”
Following the bitter campaign, the Carteris-led guild will face a major crossroads in 2020. SAG-AFTRA, along with the DGA and WGA, is due to negotiate a new film and TV contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with pensions, health care and wages all on the line. The current agreement between SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP expires on June 30, 2020.
Unite For Strength has been in control of the Screen Actors Guild since 2009, with Carteris becoming president in 2016 after the death of then-guild chief Ken Howard. The party oversaw the guild’s merger with AFTRA in 2012, but the group’s pragmatic, closed-doors approach to negotiations with studios and networks has been criticized by the Membership First party, on which Modine campaigned with a slate that included actors Ed Asner, Neve Campbell, Elliott Gould and Rob Schneider.
Modine and Membership First accused Carteris and UFS of not being transparent enough on contract negotiations and details, as well as not addressing a disparity in pensions between SAG members and AFTRA members. Modine supporters like Rosanna Arquette also accused Carteris of not adequately acting on demands to change the guild’s sexual harassment policies and improving communication with members who come forward with complaints about sexual abuse.
Carteris, in turn, accused Membership First of having “a very large and very negative impact” on SAG during its last go-around in leadership.
“They failed to negotiate numerous contracts, and the failure they most want to distract you from…is their disastrous handling of the TV and theatrical contracts when they were last in charge,” Carteris said in a campaign video. “They left SAG without TV and theatrical contracts for over a year, resulting in earnings and benefit contribution losses of over $100 million.”
The attacks got more heated over the past month as Modine and Carteris were both accused of violating federal labor laws during the campaign. Carteris was accused of using insider information to claim credit for a new SAG-AFTRA deal with Netflix completed in July in a campaign statement that had to be filed to the guild three weeks before the Netflix deal was finished.
Modine, meanwhile, denied claims in a Los Angeles Times report that he had accepted illegal contributions from the New York Film Academy, of which he is an unpaid board member, by posting three campaign videos produced by the NYFA on his website. Attorneys quoted in the LA Times article noted that it is against federal labor law for union candidates to accept anything of value from an employer to promote their candidacy, but Modine’s status as an unpaid board member does not qualify him as an employee of NYFA.
Whether the article was a major factor in swaying the election to Carteris is unclear, but Modine released a statement Wenesday afternoon calling on union members to regroup regardless of the result.
“As unionists. We come back to what’s most important — the membership. As brothers and sisters,” read a statement from the “Full Metal Jacket” actor to SAG-AFTRA members. “We come back to what’s most important – solidarity, in the face of apathetic odds, where the work continues anew, where we recommit to doing what’s right, what’s fair, what makes the most common professional sense for all of us.”
“Whatever the outcome, stay focused, remain committed — for the work to form a more perfect union continues.”