Made up of more than 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions representing 2.1 million union members in all sectors of the economy, the California Labor Federation held its biennial convention in Oakland, California, July 12-13. SAG-AFTRA was front and center, well represented by President Gabrielle Carteris; Los Angeles Second Vice President and National Board member Ellen Crawford; National Board members Don Ahles, Jane Daly and San Francisco-Northern California Local President Kathryn Howell; and San Francisco-Northern California Local Board members Marie Shell and Ann Fields.
As the keynote speaker for the opening night dinner, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris gave an impassioned and personal speech, honoring the legendary activist Dolores Huerta of United Farm Workers, who received the Federation’s prestigious Lifetime Award. “When I look at you, I see decades of hard, hard work and the joys and sorrows of a lifetime spent in the trenches fighting for workers. Thank you for your leadership and your courage, for being a warrior and raging against inequity, for standing strong for justice and for never giving up the fight,” said Carteris.
President Gabrielle Carteris with Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers.
Highlighting the role unions played in protecting her after an injury she sustained many years ago, Carteris praised the California labor movement for being the last line of defense for working people. “California is a bellwether for the rest of the nation and the world. What we do here matters, really matters,” she commented.
“We are always stronger in the collective,” Carteris reminded the attendees. “In every way, we should work together and support each other. When you make commercials or non-broadcast videos, make sure you’re doing it union with SAG-AFTRA members. And when our building owner is doing construction, I’ll make sure the tapers and steamfitters and glaziers and welders are union. Unity and solidarity are everything.”
Los Angeles 2nd Vice President Ellen Crawford. Photo by Brooke Anderson
SAG-AFTRA had a major presence at the convention in addition to President Carteris. Crawford was elected and sworn in as a vice president of the Federation Executive Council. After taking office, she presented a resolution titled Don’t Shoot Non-Union. Speaking passionately, Crawford stated, “Just as you immediately think of a union printer or hotel, please equally and instinctively hire union performers and crew for your promos, internet videos, commercials and student films. This is workers bread and butter and can often make the difference in qualifying for health benefits or contributing to pensions.”
The resolution, which calls upon all affiliates of the Federation to ensure SAG-AFTRA members are used in union commercials and educational productions, was met with resounding support and passed. In addition, Los Angeles Local Executive Director Ilyanne Morden Kichaven served on the Constitution Committee and former President Ken Howard was remembered during Tuesday night’s opening session.
SAG-AFTRA member Daniel Stern served as a delegate to the convention and spoke during the closing presentation about the vital contributions the California State Film and Television Incentives bring to the state’s overall economy. In thanking all the California unions for their support, Stern, who testified in hearings during debate of the bill, reported that in just one year, the expanded tax credit program is on track to generate a total of $1.7 billion in direct in-state spending, including $600 million in paychecks for crew members — adding hundreds of thousands of jobs for workers in front of and behind the camera. In just five years, the California film and television tax credit program created 18,900 cast jobs and 32,100 crew jobs. He also reminded the audience that many ancillary businesses, both large and small, reap substantial benefits from a robust California film and television industry and that 92 percent of goods and services purchased by California filmmakers are locally sourced in state. “The entertainment industry has long been a positive, progressive force and a forward thinker in the labor movement,” said Stern. “It has been incredibly meaningful to me personally to have been a small part of the California State Film and Television Incentives bill that was passed by Gov. Brown and our state leadership last year.”
The convention was attended by California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and AFSCME President Lee Saunders. All California unions were represented, including AFM, AFGE, AFT, ATU, CNA, CSEA, CWA, IATSE, IAM, IBEW, IAFF, NALC, SEIU, the Teamsters, UFCW, USW and UNITE HERE.