Peter Antico, one of the most outspoken critics of SAG-AFTRA’s leadership, has announced he’ll be a candidate for president of the 160,000-member performers’ union. The election will be held in August, and he’s the first to announce his candidacy.
Antico, a veteran actor and stunt coordinator, split with Membership First, the union’s “loyal opposition,” and is running independently because he feels MF has not been vocal or active enough in fighting the waste, malfeasance and incompetence that he says is rampant at the union.
He’s a particularly harsh critic of David White, the union’s national executive director. “If David White was the CEO of a publicly traded company,” he told Deadline, “he would be fired for negligence and incompetence for wasting $16 million of the members’ money for renting empty office space in New York, including $1 million in new Italian furniture that was unneeded.”
A vocal critic of the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, he accused White and Unite for Strength, the union’s pro-merger ruling party, of never having filed a pre-merger jurisdictional complaint against AFTRA “when they stole/poached SAG’s jurisdiction” by undercutting SAG’s TV contract. He also accused White and UFS, which was then headed by SAG president Ken Howard, of not performing a per-merger audit of AFTRA’s financial records, which he said would have shown that AFTRA was “close to bankruptcy.” This, he said, “damaged the finances of SAG as they borrowed $3 million from the members’ unclaimed residual trust fund and an additional $3 million from the general investment fund to shore up their spending deficit. White never disclosed this to the membership and national board members controlled by UFS also did not disclose this information.”
He’s also made numerous demands for a forensic audit of the SAG Pension and Health Plans after a pre-merger embezzlement of some $2.5 million brought down the Plans’ chief administrator and led to the conviction of the head of its information technology department. “If White had disclosed that AFTRA was close to bankruptcy and SAG’s Pension and Health Plan was embezzled for millions of dollars, do you think the merger would have passed?” he asked. “White did not allow the membership an educated vote.”
And after the merger, he said, White and UFS “fired 40% of the staff at SAG-AFTRA and closed 10 regional offices, and White had the audacity to take a $60,000 raise. Top-down Wall Street arrogance at the expense of fired employees demonstrates his lack of regard for ethical business practices.”
He also accused SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris and her Unite for Strength allies on the board of being little more than a rubber stamp for White and the union’s executive staff, who he says are overpaid and have a better pension plan than the union’s members.
“Unite for Strength and Gabrielle Carteris believe that White and the executive staff are so valuable that they have no problem making sure they have double our pension cap ($210,000) and that staff can retire after only 20 years of service with a full pension based upon an average of 75% of their five best consecutive years of earnings,” he said. “Members have to work 10 additional years to receive a full pension. Any staff member who earns $100,000 for five consecutive years would earn a better pension than Tom Cruise, at age 55, who earned hundreds of millions. This is neither fair nor ethical.”
He said the union needs to rewrite its constitution “to put checks and balances in place to keep the president’s position from having the powers of a dictator. “We must shift from a constitution that is now AFTRA-biased to the much improved financial structure of the old SAG. AFTRA was nearly bankrupt before the merger and should have been forensically audited before we merged to protect the SAG members. David White and the UFS-controlled national board neglected their duty in this regard. If you fail to study history, you are doomed to repeat it.”
Antico also takes the union’s leadership to task for failing to unionize broadcasters at CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC and NBC News, which decertified from AFTRA in 2006 and whose anchors and correspondents are still not represented by SAG-AFTRA.
“When I am president,” he said, “any SAG-AFTRA member who is employed at any of the aforementioned nonunion networks who refuse to abide by the terms and conditions of SAG-AFTRA will be expelled forthwith.”
“We are run by lawyers and actors who ‘act’ like businessmen/women,” he said. “Ethical leadership should mandate transparency, honesty and integral behavior as the law of the land. I would replace unethical executives and actors with MBA’s in corporate finance and restore fiscal responsibility and use the capital where it belongs – to provide service to the membership.”
The solution, he said, is to “vote out all Unite for Strength members and restore ethical leadership and financial responsibility back to SAG AFTRA. As far as David White doing a ‘great job and we are lucky to have him’ – you be the judge. I believe the facts paint a different picture.”
On his Facebook page, he states: “SAG-AFTRA is run by actors who are not educated in corporate finance, nor governance. We must restore ethics and sound business practices to SAG-AFTRA, through education, transparency, love and forgiveness. We are all responsible, good or bad, for what has taken place in SAG-AFTRA to date. Join me in affecting a change that benefits the ideology of the highest good for all.”