A Letter from Jane Austin, SAG-AFTRA L.A. Local President

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A Letter from Jane Austin, SAG-AFTRA L.A. Local President

Jane Austin

My Fellow L.A. Local Member,

First, thank you very much for your vote of confidence in my abilities as Los Angeles Local president and national secretary-treasurer. It is my honor and privilege to serve. Congratulations to all of my fellow national and local board members on their election wins, and to all our fellow candidates who took the time to run and participate in the union. I hope each one will continue to be engaged and volunteer in some capacity. Special congrats to our top national and local officers, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris and our L.A. Local vice presidents Patricia Richardson and David Jolliffe. I look forward to collaborating with all elected leaders and committee chairs on making progress and growing our accomplishments. 

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you as Los Angeles Local president for the past two years. I have come to know and befriend so many of you, which has made my union service all the more rewarding.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the L.A. Local Board and committees who have grown our education programs and activities. Sincere appreciation is owed to all our committee members for their diligence and tireless hours of work that continue to produce programing such as workshops, mixers and panels. All these endeavors have provided opportunities for members to engage and contribute to building our community. Thanks must also be given to our dedicated staff that facilitates the execution of our committees’ effective ideas. 

Two years ago, I challenged you, the Los Angeles local membership, to get involved, attend events, get to know one another and take an active role in our union. Out of 311 events, 35,000 of you have participated. I cannot articulate the pride I feel that you exceeded my expectations not just by showing up but because you have engaged and participated as a member of SAG-AFTRA. The biggest thanks I have go to you for rising to the occasion and challenging me in return. 

When I took office, there was a climate of hostility and pain; arguments with no comprise that impeded forward movement. I am delighted to report that together with a will to persevere, your union leaders have embraced collaboration. Allow me to share with you some of the compelling achievements.

In March, history was made following an outstanding organizing campaign, supported by our members, volunteers and staff that resulted in a courageous vote by Telemundo performers to join SAG-AFTRA. This new bargaining unit that will cover actors, dancers, singers and stunt performers working on Telemundo telenovelas produced in the United States, represents the largest union vote for actors at a major U.S. television network in 65 years. Even more momentous is the impact it will have on Spanish-speaking actors working in the United States for years to come. 

Then, in the last weekend of July, I was fortunate to work firsthand with over 50 volunteers and committee and staff members to produce SAG-AFTRA L.A. Conservatory’s annual Summer Intensive, which numerous members have hailed as its most successful year yet. The Los Angeles Conservatory, long thought of as L.A.’s best kept secret, is a program exclusively for SAG-AFTRA members that provides opportunities to be cast in AFI first-year films and training taught in intimate classroom settings. The Summer Intensive, a weekend of non-stop, back-to-back workshops and panels, is the Conservatory’s subtle way of introducing the upcoming season, giving the hundreds of members in attendance a chance to get to know instructors and each other.

Finally, our NextGen Performers Subcommittee continues to make strides in organizing our millennial community with a myriad of social events. Their latest event, NGP Drag Queen Bingo at Busby’s East on July 18, brought out over 100 members, who enjoyed appetizers, networking and a uniquely rousing bingo experience. The number of members this committee energizes consistently grows and they deserve huge thanks for that.

With all of these accomplishments, I feel one area that should be addressed is the number of members who voted, or failed to vote, on recent contracts, in particular the recent TV/Theatrical Contracts. I trust that our L.A. Local members were a large part of the 15.33 percent that voted out of 144,000 eligible members who were sent postcards for the online voting process. To give context, out of the 15.33 percent of members who voted, the contract was approved and ratified by an affirmative vote of 76 percent. I feel compelled to admit that I am disappointed in the voter turnout and hope that in the future each member will appreciate their power and take advantage of the opportunities available to them to make educated decisions. 

From here, I hope to leave you with this reminder that “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players ...” Be your own director and participate in any way you can. The accomplishment we feel when we participate isn’t from the action, it’s from the difference we sense we’re making. Let’s move onward and upward with every member of the L.A. Local standing with pride that their voice is heard. 

In closing, it has been my pleasure to serve the L.A. Local and as national secretary-treasurer for the past two years and I am ecstatic to continue that service. Please remember that we are all one union, so let’s stay strong together!

In solidarity,

Jane Austin
SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer and L.A. Local President

 

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