Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2010) – The Screen Actors Guild Regional Branch Division (RBD) Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse the creation of one union to cover all performers.
Screen Actors Guild President Ken Howard who, with Secretary Treasurer Amy Aquino, was in attendance at the RBD Board’s annual meeting held in Washington, DC over the weekend said, “The Regional Branch Division of Screen Actors Guild is the vital and important voice of our membership in the Branches. I’m pleased that they so strongly endorsed the idea of one union for all performers.”
In other activity, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka presented the welcome address. “SAG does such a great job of representing performing artists, and is also doing more than ever as part of our entire union movement,” Trumka told the SAG leaders. “SAG’s active support of all workers’ rights has been crucial in helping us keep labor issues in the spotlight.”
Trumka’s address touched on important issues to SAG members including digital theft, so-called “right to work” states, and the power of political and legislative activism to enact laws to protect SAG members and win tax incentives to increase production work.
“When it comes to the entertainment industry, we have no better friend in labor. President Trumka gets our issues,” said Howard. “President Trumka is a true unionist and a fierce fighter for working people. We’re honored he joined us today and honored that he is a true friend to Screen Actors Guild.”
On Saturday evening, at a ceremony held at the National Press Club, SAG/AFTRA Washington-Baltimore Branch member Sheldon Smith received the 2nd Annual Howard Keel Award for his tireless contributions to SAG. The award is the highest recognition given by the Regional Branch Division.
“As someone who has received far more than my share of honor and recognition during my lifetime, I can honestly say this was perhaps the only one which came as a complete surprise. I am very gratified and truly appreciate it,” said Smith. "To me, it reflects the gratitude I have for my membership in Screen Actors Guild and in AFTRA. Being a union member has afforded me professional opportunities I would not otherwise have enjoyed and my earned union benefits have allowed me to be a full-time working actor with a long and rewarding career."
A member since 1968, Smith is an award-winning actor/narrator and perhaps the best-known voice of Republican media campaigns in America. He is a four-time winner of the Peer Award for Voiceover/Narration, the recipient of 19 Telly Awards, multiple Pollie Awards and Reed Awards, and a CINE Golden Eagle Award, among other recognitions.
For several years, Smith has presented a very popular workshop nationwide which teaches members how to convert non-union work into union jobs. Smith has also participated in every Branch Wages & Working Conditions Committee for both the Commercials and Industrial Contracts for over 20 years.
"Sheldon epitomizes service to the union. He has lent his time, energy, intellect and considerable talent to an extraordinary number of efforts that have benefited members across the country," said SAG 3rd National Vice President David Hartley-Margolin. "Sheldon's service has been tireless, staggering, and offered for years without regard for recognition, making him more than deserving of this distinguished award."
Named for the legendary actor-singer and former SAG president, the Howard Keel Award is annually presented to persons who make a significant contribution to the promotion of SAG and to the welfare and benefit of members in their Branch, or nationally, as part of the Regional Branch Division. Keel was SAG’s 10th president (1958-59) and during his term, the SAG National Board was increased from 39 to 52 seats, allowing for Branch representation — for the first time — from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Detroit and Boston.
On Sunday, a presentation was made to Philadelphia Branch President Tom McCarthy, who will retire from Guild service at the end of his term in September. McCarthy has continuously served as Branch president for more than 30 years. As part of the tribute, SAG President Ken Howard surprised McCarthy by recreating his portrayal of Thomas Jefferson. In 1969, Howard played Jefferson on Broadway in 1776, reprising the role for the 1972 film adaptation.
“Tom is an actor’s actor and has served his union with pride and represented the members of the Philadelphia Branch with style and grace,” said Hartley-Margolin. “Not only is he an actor, but a teacher and a mentor. Tom has given much of himself in representing his brothers and sisters and we are eternally grateful.”
The SAG Philadelphia Branch is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, which will be marked today with a mayoral reception at Philadelphia City Hall attended by both Howard and McCarthy.
The RBD includes 20 Branches spanning from Boston to Hawaii. Nearly 28,000 Screen Actors Guild members who work in film and television live in the regional branches.