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I received this e-mail from SAG member David Koff and thought that you might it thought provoking!

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David Koff

Dear friends,

On page 7 of the Winter 2003 edition of the SAG magazine “Screen Actor”, SAG President Melissa Gilbert says the following in her note to the membership:

“There is only one way things will change: if the membership tracks the behavior of its chosen representatives after, as well as before, they are installed.”

I agree with Ms. Gilbert 100%. !!

In fact, the very best way to track the behavior of our elected SAG representatives is the same way Americans are able to track our elected government officials: by following how those officials vote.

Simply put: one’s voting record constitutes one’s behavior while in office because it creates a trail of accountability.

This accountability is key because we, as citizens in America, aren’t present for a majority of the thoughtful debating that goes into the creation of our laws in Washington D.C. And we shouldn’t need to be: we simply need to be able to see how our elected officials vote in order to make sure that they continue to represent our best interests. For example,if I vote for someone who is pro-environment and I see that their voting record reflects repeated abuse of the environment, I’m going to vote against that person in the next election.

And there are tools for me to do this! As a U.S. citizen, I can go to http://capwiz.com/c-span/dbq/officials/ and find out who each of my elected officials are on the federal level, get their contact information and then find out how they voted on each and every vote in the Senate and The House of Representatives.

As a member of SAG, I have no such rights. At present, it is impossible to find out how each board member and officer votes on each and every vote that faces our union.

Want to find out, for example, how Mike Farrell voted on whether or not to revise the way board meeting notes are transcribed and made available to members?

You can’t. !!

Want to find out how Kent McCord and the previous board voted in the lead-up to last year’s vote to merge SAG with AFTRA?

You can’t do that either. !!

In fact,right now, there is no permanent accountability in tracking votes. Therefore, SAG officers and board members can avoid being accountable to the membership at large. In some cases, only if a board member requests that their vote be made public and put on the record will that vote be noted.

This, my friends, is perhaps the most serious problem facing our union. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s a completely non-partisan issue! It doesn’t matter what side of the political aisle you stand on: if you can’t track how board members vote on each and every vote, you’re being kept in the dark and you’re being prevented from being part of a true, transparent democracy. And therefore you cannot, as our President so smartly urges us, track the behavior of your elected officials.

Which begs a very important question: are we powerless to try to change the very system that SAG uses to conduct and police itself?

The answer, thankfully, is no. According to Article X, Section 2 of our SAG constitution, we all have the ability if we are in the membership to call for a referendum to challenge ANY action of the board which is national in scope. (For a copy of the SAG constitution, go to
http://www.sag.org/sagWebApp/CMS/Documents/PDF/SAG_Constitution_0403b.pdf)

This kind of undertaking, however, is not a small one. 10% of ALL members of SAG must sign a petition backing the referendum. This would require at least 10,000 15,000 votes at present. That takes a lot of time and effort and energy.

I therefore ask for your help in designing how this referendum might look. Once again, I ask for your help in answering these questions:

Question #1: Should we strive to hold SAG’s officers and board of directors completely accountable for their votes once in office?

Question #2: Does the voting record of a SAG officer or board member — specifically regarding union matters — constitute a fair account of that person’s values and priorities?

Question #3: Should every vote cast from every SAG officer or board member be made available to the membership of SAG, either immediately or eventually?

Question #4: What, if any, votes should SAG officers or board members be able to make in secrecy or anonymity?

Question #5: What is an appropriate period of time that a secret vote should remain secret before being made public to the entire SAG membership?

Question #6: Where should SAG membership be able to see the voting record from every SAG officer or board member?

As we continue to move away from the politics of division and seek to come together as a more powerful and unified group of actors, I truly believe that we have a moral responsibility to change our system for the better.

I look forward to hearing from you and working with you in this new year to help formulate a method by which we can do just that.

Thank goodness we have President Gilbert to smartly remind us that it is our job as union members to hold our elected SAG officials accountable.

With respect this new year,

Your Pal:

David Koff

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Okay, being a board member is a thankless job. And all of us owe a debt of gratitude to these dedicated members who offer their time and effort in service of our guild! Even so, they must remember that they are representing ALL OF US— and must not exclude us from the loop!

The truth of the matter is that Confidentiality in the SAG Board room was initially introduced to protect board members from employers! Unfortunately, it is now being manipulated to “protect” them from the membership.

A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief WOOF !