SAG-AFTRA Convention 2017: Challenges & Opportunities

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SAG-AFTRA Convention 2017: Challenges & Opportunities

The third biennial SAG-AFTRA convention was held October 5–8 at the Sheraton Universal City in Los Angeles. Four delegates from the Portland Local attended the convention: National Board member Mary McDonald-Lewis, Portland Local President Robert Blanche, and first-time delegates Kirsten Foe and Harold Phillips. The four delegates to convention took a few moments to share their impressions of their time in L.A. and what convention means for our local.

“Solidarity is by definition unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest. Our national convention was a living example of solidarity. We came from every corner of the country. Many act, some dance, sing or speak. A few, like me, use their physicality. We gathered with our different skill sets, each intrinsically important to our diverse industry, to represent our union brothers and sisters in both our independent specialties and our industry overall. After three inspirational, informative days, I left with a myriad of ideas on how to create more union work in our area, [which is] very important. I also had another fire inside. All around me, difficult but incredibly important conversations were being had. Real change is happening; we need to keep this fire raging. Continue to speak up for yourself and others. SAG-AFTRA is not the union, it’s your union.” — Kirsten Foe

“I’ll admit, I didn’t know what to expect when I attended my first SAG-AFTRA convention. It was a little overwhelming, at first, to find myself rubbing shoulders with so many performers and broadcasters from locals around the country. It didn’t take long, though, to realize that whether our fellow members are as close as Seattle or far away as Houston and Miami, we face many of the same challenges. Meeting national and local union leaders, attending workshops and break-out sessions, electing officers, considering resolutions — it all came together to clarify something I’ve known about union membership but rarely verbalized: As the world (and our industry) changes, we put aside our differences to stand together and ensure everyone in our business is safe and cared for as we move into the future. I brought that resolve and spirit of solidarity home from L.A., and it’s been with me ever since.” — Harold Phillips

“Convention was a very full experience. It’s one of the largest gathering of members, and along with many informative and productive presentations and workshops, there is an opportunity to casually connect with fellow members from all over the country and share our experiences and thoughts, which I find inspiring and invaluable. Much good effort was spent by members crafting resolutions aimed at keeping our union relevant and progressive. I was pleased to be back at the President’s Forum, where presidents from every local gather to discuss issues and ideas for improving our union. It was a great meeting full of creative solutions, and I brought back many of them that will be useful in our local. National Executive Director David White’s speech illuminated the challenges we are facing in today’s entertainment climate and offered solid direction as to what we must do to stay vital. Looking forward to convention 2019!” — Robert Blanche

“Convention began in AFTRA many years ago, and is now a SAG-AFTRA tradition. Every two years, hundreds of delegates, board members, union presidents and National Board representatives gather with staff to present proposals from members all over the country, learn new strategies for organizing, learn of our success and challenges, and recognize members, staff and union productions with the American Scene Awards and the George Heller Memorial Award. I’m a longtime convention attendee, and the comradeship and support is almost inspiring enough to last the two years between gatherings. Almost enough, because it’s up to each of us in this local to energize and support each other. Every time we convene is a chance for that, whether in the audition rooms, at the pub or on Facebook. I encourage each of you to attend a SAG-AFTRA convention if you can. It’s unforgettable. Now, let’s make our local unforgettable, too.” — Mary McDonald-Lewis

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