Detroit 2011:10

days since last accident 165
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
The Official E-Newsletter of the Detroit Branch
October 2011


By Robert Paul
Detroit Branch SAG Member

Labor Day brought in a lot of excitement to our region, as local SAG and AFTRA members and thousands of other union workers from the Metro area set foot marching in the streets of downtown Detroit for the 2011 Labor Day Parade.

Performers representing our unions joined steel workers, postal workers, nurses, teachers and others starting on Woodward Avenue near the Fox Theatre.

The march ended near the Renaissance Center, where union supporters received admission tickets to see President Barack Obama give his Labor Day speech.

Prior to the president being introduced by many state politicians and labor leaders, participants were entertained by one of Detroit’s own esteemed legends, singer Aretha Franklin. She performed Respect and other soulful hits in honor of the president’s Labor Day appearance. Speakers included Teamsters President James P. Hoffa and national AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka. 

Martha Reeves, Harry Carlson and Steve Goldsmith

Enjoying the Labor Day Parade are, left to right, AFTRA and SAG members Martha Reeves, Harry Carlson and Steve Goldsmith.

Before an estimated crowd of 12,000 people, President Obama endorsed the unions and said he would stand up for collective bargaining as long as he’s in the White House.

“We understand that the world is changing; unions understand that the world is changing. Unions understand that they need to help drive change, whether it’s on the factory floor, or in the classroom, or in the government office…But what unions also know is that the values at the core of the union movement, those don’t change. Those are the values that have made this country great.”

And on a local level, the president also said he believes in a prosperous Motor City. “We are one nation. We are one people. We will rise and we fall together. Anyone who doesn’t believe it should come here to Detroit. It’s like the commercial says: This is a city that’s been to heck and back. And while there are still a lot of challenges here, I see a city that is coming back.”

Although there are no guarantees that President Obama will return next Labor Day, we hope to see many of our local performers come back to show our story — our pride in our work, our city, our state and our unions.

“Thank you very much, Detroit," Obama said. "God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.”

The SAG CADET (Cultivating Actors through Direction, Experience and Training) program is designed for middle school and high school-age students who are serious about learning the fundamentals of a professional acting career. It is intended to help participants begin to build that foundation, without ever losing sight of what makes acting an attractive career choice — it’s fun!

Any student in the sixth to 12th grade with drama or film acting training or experience is eligible. Similarly, any student in this age group with an immediate family member who belongs to a production-related union is also eligible.

After last year’s initial pilot program, students can sign up for the first of this season’s series of workshops. This will begin on October 3 at Productions Plus/The Talent Shop. Facilitated by SAG member Ralph Lister, the topic will be Monologues for the Audition – Stage vs. Film. Reservations are necessary and can be made by contacting Marcia Fishman at or (248) 351-2678.


President: Peter Tocco
Vice President: Nicole Hakim Yohn
Secretary: Kimberly Stump
Treasurer: Don DiPace
National Board Director: Ed Kelly
Council Members at Large:
Ele Bardha
Gerry Cooper
James Cowans
Bruce Kavaya
Ralph Lister
Debra Port
Jacqua Scott
Jamie Wheatley
Eric Wydra


The 2012 Union Plus Scholarship application is now entirely online, allowing students to complete their application over time and save their responses.

Over the past 19 years, more than $3.2 million have been awarded to students of more than 2,100 working families. Start your application today! Deadline is January 31, 2012.


Screen Actors Guild now offers free, paperless billing of your membership dues via your preferred email account. View your entire dues bill from anywhere with Internet access, day or night. Sign up here.

Peter Tocco, Anthony Garth and Audrey Pask

Left to right, Detroit Branch President Peter Tocco, Anthony Garth and Audrey Pask of Avalon Films.

Annual Meeting a Success

Hello My Union Friends,

As I write this letter, I can’t help but think about the awesome annual meeting that our SAG members enjoyed on September 7. Kathy Connell, producer of the SAG Awards on TNT and TBS, was on hand to give us insight on the production of TV shows and she answered our questions. Members also had many questions as well as opinions on the upcoming merger movement to establish one performers union. At this year’s meeting, we also recognized Avalon Films for its continued loyalty in hiring SAG. Avalon Films was selected this year because it understands our value; We give their productions the professionalism they look for. Audrey Pask and Anthony Garth were on hand from Avalon Films, and they accepted a beautiful certificate on behalf of everyone in the company.

Immediately following the meeting, Lawrence Technological University students enjoyed workshops on industry insights, conducted by SAG members Sonja Crosby, Richard Jewell, Peter Carey and Steve Goldsmith. Thank you all for working so hard for the students of Lawrence Tech.

If you missed the annual meeting, well — you missed a good one! One member, her first time at such a meeting, wrote, “Again, thank you for the annual meeting. I loved it!”

I hope all members will do their best to attend the annual meeting next year. Your feedback and participation are always needed and appreciated. SAG is only as strong as the members who support it.

See you on set,

Peter Tocco
Detroit Branch President

Detroit Labor Day ticket

Ticket for union members to see President Obama at the Detroit Labor Day Parade.

"Right-to-Work" Is Wrong for Michigan

Dear Members,

So-called "Right-to-Work" (RTW) activities are flourishing again in our state. As you know, RTW laws allow non-union employees to benefit from a union contract while not becoming a union member and not paying any fees whatsoever. While federal law allows a group of employees to propose — and if their employer agrees, to write into a contract — that all employees who benefit from the terms of a union contract are required to pay their fair share of the costs of administering that contract, RTW state laws make it illegal for employees and employers to negotiate such a contract.

One argument you will hear in favor of RTW laws is that they are better for a state’s economy. The Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper No. 326, dated September 15, 2011, states, “Right-to-work laws have no impact in boosting economic growth: Research shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income or state job growth.” RTW proponents claim that Michigan has the most skilled work force in the country, yet jobs continue to go to RTW states. But other states are also experiencing deindustrialization. General Motors closed its plant in Oklahoma after they adopted RTW laws.

Those who attended our recent annual meeting saw a brief PowerPoint presentation on such RTW issues. What we need now, however, is help from all of our members. Here’s what you can do to help the fight against RTW laws in Michigan:

1. Identify any businesses, large or small, that can be added to a list of businesses against RTW.
2. Write letters to the editors of your small city newspapers. Below is a sample letter — one that Peter Tocco and I sent to the Detroit Free Press.
3. Learn everything that you can about RTW. I will personally help you with this. If this becomes a ballot issue, your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues will need to hear your very educated facts and opinions (and they will probably be incredibly impressed with your knowledge).
4. Watch for any calls-to-action through our emails — and act when asked.

I thank all of you for your patience in this continued important message, and any assistance that you might bring to our state.

“Right-to-work is wrong for Michigan.”

Marcia Fishman
Detroit Branch Executive Director

Sample Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

The definition of a right-to-work state is incorrectly understood by so many in our state. While touted merely as a state statute that prohibits making membership or payment of union dues a condition of employment, right-to-work is really a “freeloader” system. Nonmembers work under union contracts, enjoy all of the benefits of those union contracts, and by law do not have to pay a dime for the union’s services. Right-to-work is like some citizens legally choosing not to pay taxes, even though they receive all of the benefits of their government. 

We get tired of people cherry-picking certain right-to-work states that are in good financial shape and using those states to exemplify job and economic growth. But no one can claim that all right-to-work states are in that situation. A freeloader system just cannot be the impetus for an economically positive result.

In the end, right-to-work creates a downward spiral that hurts all workers and depletes the resources at their workplaces. While the name “right-to-work” would have you believe that it is worker friendly, it is not. Make sure you do your homework and get the facts before you pass judgment on whether or not right-to-work is good for Michigan. 

We have, and we know that it is not.

[your signature]


Casting director Kathy Mooney, back left, enjoys the pizza party with members.

Member-to-Nonmember Meet-and-Greet

Fifth Avenue in downtown Royal Oak was the place to be on the Monday evenings of May 9 and August 8, 2011, as the local Detroit Branches of SAG and AFTRA teamed up and held a member-to-nonmember meet-and-greet. The events proved to be a great networking tool, as an impressive number of actors, agents, casting directors and others involved in the Michigan film and television community shared drinks, pizza and conversation.
These were important nights for both unions because of the diminished film industry in Michigan. The Detroit SAG Branch held the event with the intent that new membership is crucial to help strengthen the local industry’s ability to secure union work. A special thanks goes out to Fifth Avenue owner Tony Yezbick for hosting. Tony is a big fan of the film industry being here in Michigan, and would like his bar to become the regular meeting spot for the SAG and AFTRA members. Stay tuned, Tony, because that’s exactly what SAG's Detroit Branch intends to do! And, on a personal note, this was the first time I worked on a project for our local Branch, and I truly enjoyed it. I encourage all members to become more active within our union.

In solidarity,

Jamie Wheatley
Detroit Councilor