Summer 2011

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Page 10 of 53

A LETTER TO MEMBERS From President KEN HOWARD Dear Member, Q: What do firefighters and actors have in common? A: They will both stand in the freezing cold for hours to support their union brothers and sisters. working together. One of the best examples occurred in February, on a frigid aſternoon in Madison, Wis. SAG and I AFTRA members Bradley Whitford, Gabrielle Carteris and Robert Newman all traveled there to stand in solidarity with tens of thousands of Wisconsin public employees whose collective bargaining rights were under attack. Watching footage of the event and seeing my fellow actors rally the massive crowd outside the Capitol, I was proud all over again. I was also given a fresh reminder about another remarkable element of the protests. Despite the fact that their own collective bargaining rights were not being threatened, Wisconsin firefighters insisted on standing beside their fellow public employees through weeks of demonstrations. Mahlon Mitchell, the young president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, explained their steady presence this way: "Especially in these times, I think that we in the middle class need to stick together and look aſter each other's rights." For me, that is the story. You see, those firefighters, and actors, and broadcasters, and bricklayers, and hotel workers — the long list goes on — they all stood with the public employees of Wisconsin not because their own rights were under attack. No, they did it because they are union members who know that standing together makes us all stronger. There's a powerful lesson in that, one we should take to heart and make real. With SAG and AFTRA now working to develop a formal merger plan for presentation to our national boards in January, our members may soon have the opportunity to stand together in the most profound way possible, by voting to form one union. When I sometimes hear from Guild members who believe that SAG and AFTRA should remain separate, a reason they oſten cite is that "broadcasters and recording artists just don't understand the needs of actors…and vice versa." Aſter months of traveling with AFTRA President Roberta Reardon to talk with members of both unions about their hopes and needs for a merged successor union, I can assure you that what we have in common is far greater than anything that separates us. I'm convinced that our common interests can bind us together in ways that are powerful, profound and, above all, effective. We may not do exactly the same work, but actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers, news editors, stunt performers, voiceover artists, and all the other members of SAG and AFTRA have something deeply important in common: our commitment to unionism. We are all committed to making sure our employers — who are so oſten the same multimedia conglomerates — treat us fairly, give us safe working conditions, and pay us what we deserve. We are all committed to protecting the vital pension and health benefits we depend on to care for ourselves and our families. We are all committed to finding the most effective strategies for turning the challenges of the future into opportunities for members — all members — to work under good union contracts. And like those firefighters, we must understand that we are stronger standing together. In unity, f that seems like an unusual start to my letter, especially during the dog days of summer, let me explain. In July, I was asked to address the AFTRA National Convention and, in preparation, I looked back over recent events to find some good examples of SAG and AFTRA members Ken Howard 8 SCREEN ACTOR - Summer 2011

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