Hollywood Unions Working Against California’s Proposition 32

SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild West are working to defeat California's Proposition 32, which would prohibit unions from using money collected for dues for political purposes

SAG AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America West are dead set against California’s Proposition 32, and they want you to know it.

The “Stop Special Interest Money” or "Paycheck Protection" measure, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, would prohibit corporations and unions from using money that they’ve deducted from members’ wages to advocate for or against political measures or candidates.

Backers include Gabriella Holt, president of Citizens for California Reform; former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan and the California Republican Party.

The rub, from the guilds' perspective, is that corporations rarely if ever deduct funds for political purposes from employee paychecks, while unions regularly collect dues and use some of that money for campaigns. That fact, SAG-AFTRA leaders maintain, would put them at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to representing their members.

Also read: Reality TV: The Invisible Front in Hollywood's Labor Wars

“This proposition is a sham,” actress Gabrielle Carteris (“Beverly Hills, 90210") told TheWrap Tuesday. She’s also the co-president of the union’s Los Angeles unit and its national vice-president for Los Angeles. “The only groups really affected by this would be unions.”

Carteris said that she’d love to see all the money that goes into political campaigns be redirected elsewhere, but that’s the way the system works now and unions like SAG-AFTRA need to be able to give working people a voice. She also believes the success or failure of Proposition 32 will reverberate beyond California’s borders.

“Measures like this are part of a national movement that aims to undercut labor and collective bargaining in general,” Carteris said. “What happens in California is going to shift momentum.”

A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll taken last month found that 44 percent of California voters oppose the measure, while 36 percent support it.

Carteris said that when it comes to politcal issues, her newly merged union’s intent is generally to follow the course set by the SAG and AFTRA before they came together, which was to avoid taking sides because of the diversity of their membership. In all, about 145,000 people are represented by SAG-AFTRA. But this measure is different, she said.

“We’re taking this stand because we believe it’s critical  that our members have a voice, and because we don’t want the government telling us what we can do with our dues,” she said.

In late September SAG-AFTRA sent out an email blast to 70,000 of its members urging them to vote against the measure and phone banks have been set up to mobilize members to vote. Earlier, delegates from SAG-AFTRA, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes and the American Federation of Musicians Local 47 were part of rally against the proposition at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The Writers Guild West, through its political action committee, also is opposing Prop. 32.

The WGW's political action committee issued a list of candidates it's endorsing, led by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Among the other 21 candidates backed by the guild are California Sen. Diane Feinstein, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.