Adam Nelson, campaign manager for Matthew Modine in his failed bid for SAG-AFTRA President, filed a federal complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor alleging multiple labor code violations by guild president Gabrielle Carteris.
The complaint accuses Carteris and her campaign of more than a dozen violations of Title IV of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which outlines labor laws concerning union elections. Carteris won last month’s guild election by a significant margin, earning 44% of the vote with 13,537 votes. Modine received 10,682 votes, with 5,048 for Jane Austin; 1,096 for Queen Alljahye Searles and 367 for Abraham Justice.
Nelson’s complaints were initially sent to SAG-AFTRA’s national election committee, along with those from 13 other union members; but all protests were dismissed. Now, making good on threats of Labor Department appeals made during the election, several supporters of Modine and the Membership First slate are turning to Labor Sec. Eugene Scalia and Los Angeles federal labor investigator Troy Krouse for possible redress.
“It is disheartening that in light of these blatant election violations, the SAG-AFTRA Committee has chosen to turn a blind eye to this impropriety and instead serve as a rubber stamp on the incumbent Ms. Carteris’ malfeasance,” read a statement from Nelson via his attorney, Robert Allen.
“The Union is in dire need of new leadership and a thorough review by the OLMS [Office of Labor-Management Standards] to ensure that it is once again run for the benefit of its members.”
In the complaint, Nelson alleges that Carteris violated Title IV by appearing in an episode of “BH90210” aired during the election period in which she plays the head of a fictional actors’ union. The complaint calls the episode a “blatant national commercial,” a description that echoes a nearly identical complaint filed by SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles board member Brian Hamilton last week.
Nelson also echoes previous federal complaints by claiming that Carteris used her status as incumbent president to add the guild’s recent deal with Netflix to her campaign statement, even though the deal was still confidential at the time campaign statements were due and was not officially announced until three weeks later.
But Nelson goes beyond Hamilton’s complaint, bringing up a video loop screened in the guild’s common areas during the election that he claims “predominantly” featured Carteris and actors that were running alongside her as part of the Unite For Strength slate. The complaint argues that the guild’s board used “illogical reasoning” and did not perform “any substantive investigation” when rejecting his protest, saying that it didn’t take into account the “tone, timing, and content” of the video.
“The union’s incumbent president, Ms. Carteris, is excessively featured in the loop of videos, while her opponent and members of her opponent’s party are categorically excluded from the videos, even though they are union officers, board members and representatives who were engaged during that same period in newsworthy union events.”
The complaints filed could lead to the Department of Labor to invalidate the election and force the guild to conduct a new one. In 2002, the Screen Actors Guild was forced to run a new election between incumbent Melissa Gilbert and challenger Valerie Harper after complaints were filed by the latter over the guild’s voting systems. The re-run resulted in no changes as Gilbert was re-elected.
Unite For Strength has condemned the complaints, saying in a new statement that Nelson’s new protest is “yet more poor judgment and destructive behavior.”
“It’s both astonishing and deeply distressing that Membership First continues to ignore decades of legal precedent, and remains committed to flagrantly wasting the hard-earned dues money of working class SAG-AFTRA members,” said a UFS spokesperson.
“This kind of partisan whining and clear commitment to dragging SAG-AFTRA through the mud, is exactly why Matthew Modine and his Membership First faction was roundly defeated across the country.”
UPDATE: 10/24, 2:20 PM PT: Updated to include response from Unite For Strength.