The landscape of this year’s SAG-AFTRA elections got much clearer this weekend after current president Gabrielle Carteris announced she would not seek reelection and would instead back “The Nanny” star Fran Drescher, who will run against “Full Metal Jacket” star Matthew Modine next month.
The two candidates have laid out their campaign platforms on websites and social media, each backed by running mates for secretary-treasurer and by one of the major intra-guild parties. Drescher, whose campaign was first reported by Deadline, is supported by Unite For Strength, which has controlled the president’s seat for the past decade and was key to bringing about the merger between the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA under then-president Ken Howard. Carteris, also a UFS member, has led the guild since Howard’s death in 2016.
Modine is being backed by Membership First, which led SAG in the early 2000s and has been vocal in its criticism of Carteris and Unite For Strength. Modine failed to unseat Carteris in a contentious 2019 election that saw the incumbent win with 13,537 votes to Modine’s 10,683, with former SAG-AFTRA secretary-treasurer Jane Austin receiving 5,048 votes. Only 21% of guild members submitted their ballots.
But Membership First was successful in taking over leadership of SAG-AFTRA’s Los Angeles local and has used that platform to criticize Carteris’ handling of last year’s contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Though that contract was approved with a strong majority, the Los Angeles local’s protests only intensified in August following news that residuals would no longer count toward qualifying for the guild’s health plan, forcing thousands of retirees to purchase replacement health coverage and prompting a class-action lawsuit against the health plan’s trustees.
Modine, along with secretary-treasurer candidate Joely Fisher, have vowed if elected to replace the current trustees with new ones that “have the expertise to manage a health plan, the fortitude to stand up to Employer pressure and the character to remain truthful and transparent in their work.” They also promise to demand that studios raise caps on their contributions to the health plan to prevent the sort of changes made to the health plan last year to mitigate rising costs.
Drescher, whose campaign officially launched this past Friday, said in a statement that she hopes to “apply my experience as the president of the Cancer Schmancer Movement and my success on Capitol Hill and as a Public Diplomacy Envoy for uniting our union, increasing member benefits and giving our 160k strong membership a more significant presence on the national landscape.”
Drescher is running with secretary-treasurer candidate Anthony Rapp, who has the endorsement of fellow UFS member and outgoing secretary-treasurer Camryn Manheim. Both Carteris and Manheim intend to run for spots on the guild’s national board.
Unite For Strength, meanwhile, is touting Drescher as a candidate who will build on Carteris and her team’s achievements, including the first guild contract with Netflix, increased wages and benefits for commercial and video game voice actors, and bringing on-air talent at Telemundo into the union. UFS is promising to make residuals for streaming shows a key part of talks with studios moving forward after a labor-wide push to increase such residuals during last year’s talks was restrained somewhat by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The party is also making sexual harassment a key part of its campaign, promising to continue its work in response to the #MeToo movement. Under Carteris’ leadership, SAG-AFTRA has created a hotline and website to allow members to anonymously report incidents as well as established a network of intimacy coordinators to oversee the filming of sex scenes.
Ballots will be sent out to members on August 3, with the results being tabulated on Sept. 2.