Five members of the Portland Local Board stepped down at the end of their terms in late August. We took a moment to talk to some of them about their experiences serving their union and their local.
“Many years ago, I became a member of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, which at the time was a separate union,” says outgoing member Robert Matthew Cohn. “Having benefited from my association with the unions, I felt I should give some of my time to the organization. I put myself up for nomination to the board here in Portland … and I was elected! With no idea of what that might entail, I contacted Tobias Anderson, who I knew had been a Local Board member, and said, ‘I’ve been elected to the board; what do I do now? What must I do? Give me a clue!’ Tobias replied, ‘The most important thing is to just show up for the meetings.’ And so I did. I was extremely impressed by the dedication of a core group of board members who had been steering the local and been involved with the union nationally for some years, and I tried to participate and be useful.”
“I enjoyed getting to know wonderful, proactive and positive people who truly care about making our union stronger and better,” notes outgoing Local Board member Ted Rooney. “The result was that I grew to feel more a part of the union and responsible for where it goes.”
Outgoing member Kristina Haddad concurs, saying, “Our members and our union are extremely passionate about what they do. They are 100% committed to the work, the craft and to the betterment of their peers. We are very fortunate in the Portland Local that we have actors in our community who are not only gifted in their talent but also very generous with their knowledge.”
“My tenure on the Local Board afforded me the opportunity to get better acquainted with the local acting community,” says outgoing member Maggie McOmie, “and it allowed me to see how our union forms alliances with other local unions. I particularly enjoyed representing SAG-AFTRA in planning our participation in the Portland Pride Parade with members of the Oregon AFL-CIO.”
“I was proud to be a part of establishing a very credible reputation and a much more visible presence for SAG-AFTRA in Portland,” says Rooney. “I think we created more awareness among low-budget indie producers of the ‘do-ability’ of going union with their projects. We were also able to establish consistent and solid educational opportunities for members.”
Haddad agrees. “I know for me it was very important to bring greater awareness to the work of the union, and how critically important it is to actors. I think we successfully created workshops and events that really worked to achieve this goal. For example, the contracts workshop, which had excellent participation and enabled members and non-members to gain a deeper understanding of union action and benefits.”
When asked if she has any advice for incoming members of the 2019–2021 Board), Haddad said, “Have fun. Sounds trite, but it holds true! The incoming board is made up of extremely creative and powerful artists, so I don’t think they need much advice! But, as with anything, I think it’s important to listen and learn from others and really think outside the box in terms of new ways to do the work and to engage the community. Local President Michelle Damis is extraordinary in her leadership abilities and I know this next board will take things to the next level.”
“Discover the ways you are best at helping and commit to those first,” counsels Rooney. “Keep an eye out for non-board members who can help out. Non-board members should know they are welcome and encouraged to be on committees the board has organized to serve local members.”
These committed SAG-AFTRA members may be stepping away from their duties as board members, but they’ve assured us they’re committed to contributing to the success of their local here in Portland.
“Although I wasn’t active on many committees,” notes Cohn, “I did become the local’s representative to the Portland Theatrical Federation and the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. I’m no longer a board member, but I’ll continue to be the liaison between the Portland Local and the NOLC.”
“I am glad to continue on the Events Committee,” Rooney says, “and help with organizing/teaching classes.”
“I definitely plan to volunteer for events and workshops,” says Haddad. “I will be teaching a Business of Acting workshop for the Conservatory Committee at the end of September, which I’m super excited about. I would encourage our members to take advantage of their membership benefits! There are many opportunities to learn and grow from union volunteerism and engagement. It can really expand your career and cultivate amazing new relationships!”
- Local News