Former “Beverly Hills 90210” star Gabrielle Carteris captured SAG-AFTRA’s executive vice presidency Thursday, besting rival Mike Hodge in a vote one delegate described as “not even close.”
Carteris, who played high school newspaper editor Andrea Zuckerman on the series, had the backing of SAG‑AFTRA Secretary‑Treasurer Amy Aquino and Roberta Reardon, the union’s former co-president. New York Local President Hodge, meanwhile, was backed by Ken Howard, the national president, and Clyde Kusatsu, the union’s newly installed L.A. Local president.
Before a total of 303 ballots were cast, two other candidates joined the race, although neither drew enough votes to influence the outcome. Carteris received 66.5 percent of the vote to 23.22 percent for Hodge. Jane Austin, who ran unsuccessfully for secretary-treasurer on a ticket with Esai Morales, received 10.28 percent. Millie Wright was also a candidate.
“I am so grateful to be elected executive vice president and I look forward to building on the merged union that we created, being one and fighting the good fight,” Carteris said in a statement. “I’m really honored.”
The vote was the climax of a busy first day for the some 350 delegates to SAG-AFTRA’s inaugural convention in Los Angeles.
The morning began with a pair of chest thumping speeches from top union leaders.
More than a year after the merger of SAG and AFTRA, officials made unity the theme of the first gathering of the joint membership. And the first speakers to the stage were quick to emphasize how the unions’ unification has led to greater bargaining power.
“Brothers and sisters, we’re stronger when we’re together, it’s that simple,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “One of the major goals across our labor movement is strengthening the power of unions. And I have no doubt that the merger of SAG and AFTRA has built a much, much stronger union. It’s a victory for your combined membership.”
“All very, very exciting from our point of view,” he said.
But Trumka turned his speech into a broader call to arms for the labor movement and emphasized the “real solidarity” between unions in different industries.
“I’m not talking about lip service solidarity,” he said. “I’m talking about real solidarity where your fight is my fight. And I don’t ask what the fight’s about. If my brothers and sisters are in a fight, I’m going to come to their aid, whether they’re right or wrong.”
His remarks drew a standing ovation from the crowd at the JW Marriott and captured the mood of an emboldened SAG-AFTRA membership.
Howard remarked as Trumka left the stage: “That’s a man I want follow into a fight.”
Earlier Howard had stressed to the delegates that the merger had put the union into a stronger bargaining position. “We are stronger together, let no one doubt that,” he said. “When we work together we are an unstoppable force. Unity is our greatest strength.”
Some observers have noted the tough talk from SAG-AFTRA could put it into a bind when it comes to bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers next year.
“The fact that the unions are technically merged doesn’t in itself mean that they’re going to have more power or that there’s going to be less internal dissension among the various factions,” Day Krolik, who from 2004 to 2010 was responsible for NBCUniversal’s labor relations and talent negotiation, recently told Backstage.