Ken Howard made history Thursday, defeating Esai Morales to become president of a combined SAG-AFTRA in the first national election since Hollywood’s two largest labor unions merged last year.
Ballots for the national officers election were mailed to 139,967 eligible voters on July 16, and 28,755 were returned by Thursday's deadline, for a return of 20.5 percent.
Howard received 16,396 votes, with Esai Morales receiving 9,850 votes, while Paul Edney (1,359) and Marilyn Monrovia (960) trailed. In the election for secretary-treasurer, Howard's running mate Amy Aquino was elected with 17,590 votes and Jane Austin, Morales' running mate, received 10,662 votes.
SAG’s Howard and AFTRA's Roberta Reardon have been serving as co-presidents since March of last year, when members approved the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Reardon was just beaten out by Mike Hodge in the race for N.Y. local president in results announced early Friday. Hodge will serve as third consecutive term atop the local, after getting 3,121 votes to Reardon's 3,003.
Howard was elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2011 as the 25th and final president of SAG. Along with Reardon, he and Unite For Strength were strong advocates for the merger, while Morales and his Membership First allies campaigned strongly against it for years. Howard was a heavy favorite going into the vote, based on the 86 percent approval vote on the merger, and wll serve a two-year term.
"I'm gratified that members across the country have reelected me to lead our union and continue building on the strong foundation we created through merger," Howard (photo above) said.
Also read: Contract Time Is Coming: Now, What About That Combined SAG-AFTRA Clout?
"I look forward to joining the delegates who will assemble in Los Angeles for the first SAG-AFTRA convention in late September, and then moving forward with the new leadership team to do the important work that members have entrusted to us," Howard said.
Unite For Strength candidates swept the top three spots in the L.A. local election. Clyde Kusatsu was elected president, Jenny O’Hara was voted in as first vice president and Susan Boyd Joyce as second vice-president. They'll all serve two-year terms. Here's a link to the rest of the L.A. results.
"I'm extremely pleased so many members expressed their support for my leadership" Kusatsu said. "I'm grateful for their vote of confidence and look forward to serving as president of SAG-AFTRA's largest local. I'm excited to play an even greater role in strengthening our union and I’m counting on Los Angeles members to join me in that effort.”
Ballots were still being tabulated in the New York local election.
With negotiations with the TV networks and movie studios coming up next year, voters in the 165,000-strong union opted for what they saw as a steady hand in electing Howard. No date has been set for the start of talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for the successor to the current master contract, which expires June 30.
Howard stressed his experience during the campaign and pointed to his leadership in helping to seal the deal for merger and negotiate the union’s TV commercials pact with advertisers earlier this year.
Morales (photo right) campaigned on a platform calling for more transparency on the guild's finances and citing slow payment of residuals, the erosion of standards for middle-class actors and the closure of 10 branch offices as examples of the disconnect between the current leadership and membership.
Also read: Esai Morales, SAG-AFTRA Presidential Challenger, Thinks He's Got a Slugger's Chance
This election creates a permanent governance structure with 70 board seats allotted for the 22 locals; Los Angeles has 28 seats and New York 16. A total of 10 national officers will also serve on the national board bringing its total size to 80.
Also read: SAG-AFTRA Overwhelmingly Ratifies 3-Year Commercials Contract
A working actor for more than 40 years, Howard has worked in TV, movies and the stage. An Emmy and Tony Award winner, he helped create and starred in TV's "The White Shadow" from 1978-1982, and has had recurring roles on "30 Rock," "Dynasty," "Melrose Place" and "Crossing Jordan." His most recent movie "ACOD," which premiered at Sundance Film Festival.