And Open Letter to SAG’s General Counsel! And his response!
On August 18th, in an effort to get the Restore Respect Leadership to come clean on the Vulich lawsuit, the Ol’ Watchdog sent this email to SAG’s General Counsel David White.(Documentation of one of those “misleading” emails SAG is suing over is at the bottom of this post)
David White, SAG General Counsel
Dear Mr. White,
It is my general understanding that in the Vulich lawsuit, SAG professes that according to Federal law, an employer has to follow the labor laws that regulate relations between employers and labor organizations. Fair enough. But that begs the question, exactly what specific labor laws, codes, titles or statutes is SAG charging Mr. Vulich with violating.
If SAG would release specifics to substantiate that their charges are not baseless generalities, perhaps it would defuse the criticism that this is an expensive, frivolous lawsuit paid for by members’ dues money — rather than one that is corroborated by specific codes and regulations.
As a concerned SAG member, I would request a response as soon as possible.
Arlin Miller SAG
You’ll notice that my email was to the point: “exactly what specific labor laws, codes, titles or statutes is SAG charging Mr. Vulich with violating.” I think you’ll also notice that as cordial as Mr. White is, he avoids answering the question.
So here is Mr. White’s response to my email with a few interspersed remarks from the Ol’ Watchdog! To avoid any confusion, I have assigned Mr. White the majestic SAG Logo, while I, of course, will by represented by the Ol’ Watchdog icon.
Now, I suppose, there are those who will claim that your Ol’ Watchdog is not being fair because, I have not posted his response sans my remarks. Perhaps, but then you might remember that when the Restore Respect Leadership posted Membership First’s Minority Report on the SAG website, they did the same darn thing. So, ah, shucks I guess the Ol’ Goose and Gander thing applies here.
Anyho’, here is Mr. White’s actual response to my email with a, ah, couple of pertinent interjections by the Ol’ Watchdog.
Thanks for your note and question. Others have asked similar questions about this lawsuit so, below, I’ve attempted to put together something that is broadly responsive to those who, like you, have expressed interest in this matter. This isn’t intended to be exhaustive, but, with time being so limited, I hope it will suffice for now.
Thanks to Mr. White for responding.
Some have asserted that for SAG to go after one of our own for campaigning against C&A is wrong. I agree. But that’s not what we’re doing. You may recall that thousands of SAG members were against C&A, and many members spoke out, LOUDLY, about their feelings – successfully so. No problem. That’s the beauty of the political debate within a union, between members, who care about the future of their organization.
Well, now maybe Mr. White should check with the Restore Respect Leadership about going after our own, because that is exactly what they have done in this case with their scurrilous smear tactic flier asking Membership First “to Come Clean” on the Vulich matter! I agree with Mr. White that what Restore Respect is doing is –WRONG! Hmmm, I wonder who the other John Does in their lawsuit are? Probably, grips, cameramen, carpenters, etc(I have reproduced a pertinent portion that Restore Respect Flier below)
That’s not what Mr. Vulich did. Mr. Vulich is NOT a member. And although some don’t understand the significance of this fact, he is, under federal law, an employer, which means he is obligated to follow the labor laws that regulate relations between employers and labor organizations.
Ah, what Labor Law? Certainly, it would not compromise Mr. White’s case to let us all in on that Labor Law that makeup guy Vulich violated!
You may recall that this lawsuit is the result of an investigation that was initiated by the National Board of Directors.
Point of fact is that originally, the National Board at the insistence of a Restore Respect branch board member, initially wanted to go after “some” board member who leaked something to the press, and then a board member from Atlanta insisted that they go after whomever had dared to forward those emails that had dared to disagree with Consolidation! You see Restore Respect controls the National Board and they wanted to get somebody! Oh, by the way, perhaps Mr. White can clear this up! I understand that Mr. White informed those pursuing this matter that NO LAWS HAD BEEN BROKEN!
Our attorneys conducted an intensive investigation which led to Mr. Vulich’s account.
It damn well should have been intensive for an estimated 100 THOUSAND DOLLARS! Of course, the hundred grand is only an estimate, we can’t be exact, because when it comes to the amount of your dues money that is being WASTED, ah that’s CONFIDENTIAL!
Based on our investigation, we believe that Mr. Vulich obtained, improperly, private email addresses and then sent out a series of bulk emails to thousands of individuals who complained, to us (also loudly), that they were on his recipient list and that he had their private addresses
Hmmm, thousands complained loudly! Gee, that explains why the only two members to come forward and make declarations in this lawsuit against Mr. Vulich are Restore Respecters, Lisa Lewis and Amy Aquino! Oh, by the way they are both board members! And both voted to pursue this lawsuit in the first place!
His emails carried false return addresses and did not provide recipients with a way to get off his list. His emails violated Yahoo’s rules, so Yahoo! shut down his account. Undeterred, we believe, he repeatedly sent out additional emails, using different, false, return-email addresses. After receiving a series of complaints, Adelphia, like Yahoo!, shut down his internet service account because he was violating their rules, too.
Gosh, Yahoo did that? And Adelphia too! It seems to me that Mr. Vulich has already been punished enough! Talk about piling on! Do we really need to blow our dues money to go after him for doing nothing more than forwarding a few emails– that had already been all over the internet on emails and bulletin boards? Hmmm, and I wonder who made those series of complaints to Adelphia and Yahoo? God, I hope they didn’t bus staff down to the Fed again!
Nonetheless, Mr. Vulich continued, we believe, by intruding into SAG’s proprietary employee list, fabricating an email from SAG’s HR dept, and sending a notice to employees that if the organization was successful in its push towards consolidation w/AFTRA, that they could lose their jobs. The email was so well-designed to look official that its opening paragraph was an exact replica of an earlier, authentic HR email sent to staff members, and the second paragraph had language that was nuanced enough to have the “air” of legitimacy.
Which is exactly why it was obviously an inside job! So unless Mr. Vulich was doing makeup for Melissa, Bob, or someone else at SAG, he would hardly be in the position to know anything about the email. Here’s a thought. Ah, maybe it was a disgruntled employee! I understand there have been, ah, shall we say, a “couple” since CEO Bob took over!
The email was intended to increase the anxiety of an already anxious staff, and to intimidate those employees who were following the Board’s policy. Throughout C&A, as our employees tried to keep their heads down and continue to administer your contracts, while also trying to faithfully execute the Board’s policy re the C&A campaign, their work environment grew increasingly stressed.
Hey, you’d be stressed to, if instead of serving the members, you were being bused down to the Fed building to make telemarketing calls to them!
Most people are unaware of another critical fact, that we’ve had similar attacks in other membership referenda, including our bread-and-butter vote, the commercials contract. While it’s not reflected in the headlines and press stories, there is, in fact, a pattern and practice emerging of individuals who, we believe, are attempting to interfere with your internal governance process.
Ah, actually it was in the media. In fact, Variety did a whole Story about how T.J. Escott and other powerful ATA/NATR agents where trying to “interfere” with a referendum by sending letters to their clients telling them to vote for the ATA/NATR deal. Now, I ain’t a lawyer, but those guys, ah, they’re EMPLOYERS aren’t they? Ah, just asking!
Put bluntly, we cannot allow this. People may think this union is an easy target but we are not.
That is unless you’re a powerful agent, and the Restore Respect Leadership agrees with you! Here’s a question for Mr. White. When is SAG going after T.J. and those other EMPLOYERS agents who INTERFERED with the ATA/NATR referendum? Ah, don’t hold your breath, folks!
Keep in mind that, not only has the judge refused to throw out this case, but he has already awarded SAG attorneys fees and costs for Mr. Vulich’s attempt to get it thrown out at an early stage. This is not a frivolous lawsuit; it’s a very serious issue.
Ah, keep in mind also that the fraud charges where dropped, and this case is in civil court BECAUSE NO LAW WAS BROKEN! Also, keep in mind that Mr. Vulich has filed counter charges and you can bet they ain’t FRIVOLOUS!
Finally, just so that you know, the argument that we’re attempting to “re-do” the C&A vote is, in a word, ridiculous. Our Board has stated, on no uncertain terms, that the issue of consolidation will not even be open to consideration until after the next round of negotiations, and only then if a plan emerges that has broad consensus within the membership.
Right and it’s also “ridiculous” that they are trying to implement “Qualified Voting!” Or that CEO Bob has a “Conflict Of Interest.” Or that the Hasbro Waiver is the, ah, HASBRO WAIVER! Or that that Historic SAG/ AFTRA negotiating deal for which we got the worst contract in recent history ONLY AFFECTED THREE NEW SHOWS! And speaking of those negotiations, folks, they are just around the corner, and unless we replace some of those compliant Restore Respect board members ( Or as they are affectionately known “THE WAIVER BUNCH,” ) with Membership First Board Members— they will continue to have a broad consensus on anything they want to do.
I’m always surprised and disappointed at how political every move at SAG becomes, but going after an outsider who decides to interfere with the Guild’s internal vote – whether at the behest of somebody with a SAG card or not – should not be political. It’s straightforward: it won’t be tolerated.
Ahhhh, how does one, even if they are anonymous, interfere with an election by disseminating information from one SAG member to another?
In addition to the above, a couple of quick points for you to consider: !.These are not innocent emails.
Gosh, you mean that they’re guilty emails? Look, folks, I received those emails. And I saved them! I’m sure you got them forwarded to you by fellow actors! The author of every email identified himself! The only things these emails were guilty of was disagreeing with the Restore Respect Propaganda machine that spent millions of your dues dollars trying to shove CONsolidation down your throats! They failed and this lawsuit is about two thingsVENGEANCE AND INTIMIDATION!
The emails sent to our members and staff stretched along a long and deliberately covert path before reaching their destination. You’ll notice that you can easily hit the reply button and get my legitimate return email address. Not so with Mr. Vulich’s emails. If you hit the reply button for his address, you came to a dead end because his return address was, we believe, intentionally deceptive. In fact, our attorneys (a couple of whom are computer geeks) went to great lengths to trace the actual source of these emails.
Ah, one thing, Mr. White is forgetting! You can always hit another button—DELETE! Look, I can’t speak for Mr. Vulich, but if I made my living working for the studios as a makeup man, I surely wouldn’t want them to know that I forwarded some emails that were against their baby, Consolidation! You better believe, they would have loved to be bargaining with a brand new union. All the Old deals would be off! And you can bet they would have looked at SAG’s bargaining agreements and AFTRA’s bargaining agreementsand being the kind of guys that are always willing to compromise they would have said “So guys let’s meet somewhere in the middle!”
Patience is a virtue. We were naturally puzzled when Mr. Vulich’s account was implicated so we gave him a chance to resolve this informally, without a lawsuit. He refused. In fact, we spent weeks trying to contact him, refusing to release his name to anyone (to protect his privacy) in a genuine attempt to discuss the issue with him, and to give him the chance to explain how his account may have become mixed up in this mess. We called his company and spoke with his assistant (very nice lady). We called him directly. We emailed him, stating that we believed we had uncovered information that implicated his account in our investigation. We expected him to be surprised, to claim no connection to SAG, to help us find out what happened, who may have had reason to hack into his account, etc. No response. Until, finally, he sent one email, criticizing our research and suggesting that, since he was NOT a member and had “no interest in SAG’s internal affairs,” (his words, not mine), that we should take “greater care” before throwing such accusations his way.
Hey, if SAG or any other self appointed, snooping EMAIL POLICE questioned me about forwarding emails, anonymously or not, I would politely tell them to BUTT OUT! Ah, it’s still a free country isn’t it?
Turns out, the Guild was right. After being forced into court, he now has admitted to sending some of these emails. He doesn’t appear eager to admit to the more egregious emails, but that’s understandable. We believe that the evidence will prove the Guild right again. All we want is our chance in court to prove it.
Ah, don’t worry, I got a feeling SAG is gonna spend a lot of time in court on this one!
This is no witchhunt. This issue is about conduct, not speech. Of course, members (and anyone else) can speak their minds up and down the block, on storefront steps, on radio ads, in the Trades, from the mountaintops, etc.
Just, ah, not in emails
Go for broke. Just don’t break the law when doing it.
Mr. White of course is a lawyer! And of course, he knows that NO LAW WAS BROKEN! So he very cleverly, implies that Mr. Vulich broke a law without actually saying it! For as Mr. White knows, and told those pursuing this lawsuit NO LAW WAS BROKEN! Actually the truth of the matter is that the only thing Mr. Vulich is being charged with is business stuff. You know like Interfering with Employment Relationships, economic advantages, unfair competition, being a nuisance, and trademark infringementand several fraud charges that were dismissed. Ain’t it strange! Mr. White at the behest of the Restore Respect Board stated that Mr. Vulich is “under federal law, an employer, which means he is obligated to follow the labor laws that regulate relations between employers and labor organizations.” Yet there is nothing in SAG’s Lawsuit that cities any specific labor law that Mr. Vulich broke!
You may want to yell “Fire!” while you’re sitting in a crowded movie theater but, even with first amendment protections, you can’t do it. In situations such as this, it’s not WHAT you’re saying that matters, it’s HOW you say it. It’s about your conduct, not your speech.
Huh? Let’s go to those forwarded emails on that onehum, I see that they point out that consolidation would not benefit participants to the health fund, hmmm qualified voting, several past SAG presidents are against it, Not Paid For By SAG Fundsnope nothing in here about FIRE no name calling, not even one single misanthropehey, their conduct is better than that of that craven column by Mike Farrell in Actor’s Magazine! And they didn’t use our dues money!
It’s important to be clear on this point. I don’t know who Mr. Vulich worked with (if anyone) when he obtained private email addresses, sent repeated emails to our membership, frightened staff members, etc.
Exactly! Mr. White doesn’t know! He doesn’t know whether those emails were gathered by a sharing of “private” emails. Obtaining private emails is no crime we all do it! I currently have several hundred! I have sent repeated emails to our membership and will continue to do so! No, I have not frightened staff members, uh, well maybe a couple! But then SAG nor Mr. White have absolutely no evidence that Mr. Vulich has either! Oh, and those staff members that were frightened! The estimate is that it was no more than a couple! More of them were frightened by the Consolidation claim that it would eliminate duplication of staff jobs! Not to mention those that were scared witless when a certain CEO after the fact “snarled if there is any firing to be done around here, I’ll do it!”
Frankly, while there’s no evidence yet that a member was involved in this matter, it really wouldn’t matter if one was. Not every individual with a SAG card has your union’s best interest at heart, and partnering with a member doesn’t give this non-member the right to intrude on a membership vote.
So, let me get this straight! One of those emails that was forwarded was a message from Former President Mr. Ed Asner! Is Mr. White saying that Mr. Asner does not have this unions best interest at heart? I think every SAG Member would pick Mr. Asner over Netflix Bob, or Mr. White any day!
This is an especially critical point given the fact that we may have people attempting to take similar steps to intrude in other votes, such as our contract referenda. No dice: We will use every means at our disposal to prevent this from occurring and to remedy it whenever it does occur. We have many individuals in our membership with heightened privacy needs (minors, high profiles, etc.) who entrust the Guild with their private information. Improperly obtaining our private email list, or any other personal data, and/or using this information improperly is a serious offense against our members, and the Guild is obligated to protect against it whenever possible.
I can dig that! I know I wasn’t too happy when some guy from the mid west called me on behalf of the Restore Respect Leadership and asked me how I had voted on a certain issue!
Finally, our members don’t need non-members to carry their message on important issues affecting their union.
Hmmm, I wonder if Mr. White means like when Melissa first ran for President and she had non-members handing out fliers for her. Aaaaaahh, more on that later!
For anyone who believes that our members are afraid to speak their mind, come sit in my office for a while. You’ll change your opinion in a hurry. MANY members spoke their mind about C&A, on publicly available websites, on production sets, in front of credit unions, in newspapers, in membership gatherings across the country, on sidewalks, and just about everywhere else that they could grab you. They did not hide behind the false addresses of non-members. Nor did they need to. Check out the many websites and email chains that articulate the discourse that rages between our members on any given day: democracy is alive and well in the Screen Actors Guild.
Ah, hasn’t anyone told Mr. White that SAG “suggest that candidates put notes on their campaign emails directing recipients not to forward those emails to ANYONE?”
I’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response from members across the city (and country) who have expressed gratitude that the Guild was able to catch this guy and is moving forward with the lawsuit. Some messages are from members who have never communicated with me before. They are not candidates for the upcoming elections. They are not connected to the more traditional partisan battles between the two political groups. But they care about their union. I’ve also heard from those who honestly disagree with the lawsuit. These members also care about the Guild. I often receive this type of give and take, and listening to it is a normal and necessary part of my job -an enjoyable part (usually). It serves as a true indication of the diversity of opinion across our membership.
Those folks that communicated to you with gratitude, David! They are not candidates! They are not connected! They are not informed! And that, I fear, is the way the current administration likes it!
At any rate, at least you have a better understanding of the background to this action. Take care and have a good weekend,
David, I have a much better understanding of this than you will ever know! And this lawsuit is in a lot of trouble—and unfortunately it is gonna end up taking money out of my pocket and the pockets of all of our membership! Sad! Uh, and costly!
David P. White
Screen Actors Guild
5757 Wilshire Boulevard, 8th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3600
I would like to thank Mr. White for his response! Even though, I must admit that I suspect that what the Ol’ Watchdog got from Mr. White was a form letter of sorts! Look, I have only had one conversation with Mr. White! He was very pleasant! But there is a big difference between Mr. White and myself! I am more interested in what you say– than how you say it! I would rather hear a belligerent truth–than a cordial lie.
Oh, well, we still don’t know what labor law Mr. Vulich supposedly brokeand I got a feeling we ain’t ever gonna know!
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
Here’s one of those emails that Mr. Vulich forwarded! One that Mr. White says that tried to mislead members into thinking that it came from SAG!
From: “Union Actor” email@example.com>
Subject: A Comment From Ed Asner
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2003 20:29:46
Not paid for by SAG funds!
A comment from Ed Asner
In his desperation to get the merger passed it seems that Richard Masur has shrugged off
what I once thought was a friendship and has resorted to a mischaracterization and
misrepresentation of my positions.
Over the years I’ve heard certain allegations about Richard Masur and listened with only
half an ear. I see now that those allegations were true.
Scott Wilson – In Solidarity with Ed Asner
This is the same Richard Masur who, while he was President of the Guild, was one of the
principal architects of the right for talent agents to have unlimited (100%) financial
interests in and be owned by our employers and carried on months of secret negotiations
with the Association of Talent Agents.
The letter from Mr Asner rings with heartfelt sincerity and concern and love for his
fellow actors and the great union which he once led. The union which is, for the rank and
file of our acting community, the last material resource for any semblance of security in
the harsh climate of this industry. Ed has always been there for his brothers and
sisters, giving his full time and energy during his term of office and, when out of
office, examining each issue with the same care and serious concern he has given to this
issue, before committing to a point of view.
There is no greater contrast than that between the graciousness of Mr Asner in speaking of those “dear, greatly admired friends” with whom he now disagrees on the issue of the consolidation of SAG and AFTRA and the manner and tone in which Richard Masur would deny his friend the right to express his point of view.
It is regrettable that those for consolidation, despite their overwhelming access to the membership through the Guild apparatus and seemingly unlimited access to our dues money to promote their position, should still find it necessary to impugn the character of anyone who disagrees with them.
Richard Masur and his colleagues who advocate consolidation, would do well to listen to Mr Asner, adopt his concern for the rank and file of our membership and refrain from making personal attacks on those with whom they disagree. One can only assume that they have no confidence in the misinformation with which they are inundating the membership.
For more details go to www.savesag.com
Didn’t Mr. White say something about members not being able to contact the source of the FORWARDED email? duh!
(Formatting on this posts is SW’s!)