Spring 2021

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8 SAG-AFTRA | Spring 2021 | Letter from the Executive Vice President R E B E C C A D A M O N "How we react to moments of crisis says a lot about who we are. Do we give in to panic and despair, or do we find opportunity in adversity? The choice is ours." Dear Member, T here are special moments in history that act as accelerators, times when events converge, creating unique opportunities for great change. These often-tumultuous periods have led to our nation's Declaration of Independence, the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act and, closer to home, the SAG-AFTRA merger. Right now is one of those moments. For many of us, the pandemic — the Great Pause, as some have named it — has sparked self-reflection and a re-evaluation of what's important. It has also accentuated the social, racial and economic injustices that have long bubbled under the surface of our national consciousness. Perhaps with lockdowns and restrictions in place, we were all a captive audience, forced as a nation to look in the mirror. We are reminded daily of the attacks on Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and LGBTQ people, the recurring murders of Black Americans by those sworn to protect them, and the obscene wealth inequalities that continually grow worse. We must use the intersection of these extreme events as an "accelerator moment," a chance to enact the change that is possible. We owe it to those who have suffered and died due to these injustices, and we owe it to ourselves and each other to build a better world. Let us make this moment an accelerator for justice, the way it has been for technology. Throughout the pandemic, people of all ages have relied on technology to work remotely and stay in touch with loved ones. At home, they have turned to the work of our members; more people are accessing entertainment digitally than ever before. Here at SAG-AFTRA, we have leveraged technology to keep our members educated and informed, and ensure they have a convenient way to reach the union when they need help on set or in the studio. Speaking of work, although the end seems in sight, this pandemic isn't over yet. If you haven't been vaccinated, I urge you to get your vaccination as soon as you can. It is imperative that we all do our part, so we can get back to all the people and things we love. For my part, I had the honor of speaking on behalf of SAG-AFTRA members at a press conference hosted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about the entertainment, media and arts recovery. I shared that in our hearts, we are not only artists, but workers. I invite us all to step back to that moment when all of the arts, entertainment and media industry shut down. The lights went off in movie theaters. No more bright light reflected off movie screens. All music venues closed. Broadway and live theater shut down all across the country. As the people who make our living creating the things that make life fun — that bring stories to life — we had to stop working. And that matters. Because we won't have a real recovery until we bring back business and help the working people in this country. Real recovery means bringing back the arts. I am grateful to Congress for working with SAG-AFTRA to create and continue programs that have protected our members and the entertainment industry throughout the pandemic, including the American Rescue Plan, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation, COBRA subsidies and Save Our Stages, among other critical legislation. As we work through the pandemic and the industry evolves, members of both unions have talked to me with increasing interest about uniting SAG-AFTRA and Actors' Equity. In another moment of potential acceleration, uniting would place all performers under one roof — including important members like stage managers — just as broadcasters, dancers, singers, and recording artists were when SAG and AFTRA merged. As someone who worked on the frontline of the birth of SAG-AFTRA, I have witnessed the many successes that would not have been possible had we not united our unions. How far we have come is a direct result of that decision to face our challenges together. How we react to moments of crisis says a lot about who we are. Do we give in to panic and despair, or do we find opportunity in adversity? These are the situations that can bring out the best in us. Or the worst. The choice is ours. Let's choose to accelerate. Onward together, Rebecca Damon

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