Fall / Winter 2021

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14 SAG-AFTRA | Fall/Winter 2021 | A Letter from the Executive Vice President B E N W H I T E H A I R "I am calling on you to help us prepare for the coming clashes and negotiations that will chart the course of our union for years to come." Dear Member, F irst, kudos to our SAG-AFTRA members for truly embodying the concept of "union": out of many, one. After a spirited and productive convention, we are moving ahead, together, to continue to ensure fair compensation, safe conditions, and dignified treatment for our members, along with ever-widening inclusivity. Second, thank you for allowing me to serve as your executive vice president for the next two years. It is truly a privilege to volunteer my time in service of this community that I love so much. To stay grounded in our mission, I often visualize what our lives would be like if SAG-AFTRA and its predecessor unions had never existed. What the world would be like if unions didn't exist for entry-level and middle-class workers. These are not academic issues for me. My brother works for Whole Foods as a produce manager. Whole Foods, as you know, is owned by Amazon, a "right-to-work" company that considers it "fair" to call in its workers at 4 a.m. on short notice with no additional compensation, or force its delivery drivers and warehouse workers to either skip bathroom breaks or forfeit pay. By contrast, our 160,000 members have strong rights on the job — including on Amazon sets or when working for Amazon-owned Audible — because SAG-AFTRA, over many decades, fought hard for protections on set, minimum pay, pension and health contributions, residuals, reasonable working conditions and hours, and a wide range of protections that ensure we are treated with the dignity and respect due to us as professionals — and as human beings. Yet there is so much more to do. We live in a world of producers and employers that would love to pay us less money for longer hours, do away with residuals, and halt any further contributions to our health and pension funds. So, our mission — the mission of every activist, whether at the local level or those serving on our National Board led by our refreshed, new leadership team helmed by our visionary President Fran Drescher — is to fully prepare for the next battle by increasing our resources of people and money, and by anticipating every pushback. As mega-mergers have consolidated power in our industry into fewer and fewer hands, we must work as one voice, not only to protect what generations of activists have won, but to build on those successes and take on the formidable challenges of advances in streaming; exclusivity; rights of publicity; diversity, equity & inclusion; and workplace safety. I know from my work over the years leading the NextGen Performers Committee that people my age and younger have a hunger to get involved in the struggle for a decent life. They want to make a difference. We need to make it easy for them to do that — and I am going to do everything I can to make that happen. So, in my first message as EVP, I am calling on you — as members, activists and community leaders — to help us prepare for the coming clashes and negotiations that will chart the course of our union for years to come. If each of us reaches out to just one person every week to talk about the importance of unions and discusses all the ways an individual might get involved, we can reach thousands of people. Those people, in turn, talk to other people, and when we all amplify that message on social media, we can quickly reach millions. By bringing in new faces, as we have done in the recent union elections, we have already begun to walk the walk on issues of inclusivity, equity and diversity. And we get to continue to work together on fair treatment and representation in the areas of race and ethnicity, people with disabilities, age, immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity in all their forms and presentations, geographic diversity, and greater representation of members from across all work categories. In this fight, all of us — dancers, broadcasters, singers, background actors, stunt performers, influencers and content creators — have a crucial role to play. I know that each and every one of you shares this commitment. I love my job. I love this union. Let's make some waves. Together in unity, Ben Whitehair

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