Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin back dissidents in SAG fight


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The fight for control of the Screen Actors Guild took a dramatic turn today, when Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin and Sally Field joined several other high-profile actors in endorsing a group of dissidents mounting an election challenge to leaders of Hollywood’s largest union.

A group known as Unite for Strength said it had lined up support from several dozen high-profile backers for a slate of candidates who are seeking to fill 11 Hollywood division seats on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild, plus 22 seats for those who serve as alternate board members.


The challengers are taking direct aim at Membership First, the Hollywood-based political group within SAG that holds a slight majority on the national board and came to power in 2005 vowing to take a harder line in negotiations with the studios.

They accuse the incumbents of mishandling the current contract negotiations and waging a misguided campaign to discredit the smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which recently reached a new three-year contract with the studios.

In an e-mail message distributed to 38,000 Hollywood SAG members, Field, who won an Oscar for “Norma Rae” and currently stars in the TV series “Brothers & Sisters,” urged her colleagues to support the dissidents in order “to end the senseless war with AFTRA and start building a united front of actors to fight for more working opportunities and better pay.”

The Sept. 18 election could be pivotal in charting the union’s course and determining whether, and how soon, the stalemate with the studios ends.

Membership First has lined up its share of top-drawer backers and candidates. The candidates include Joely Fisher, star of the sitcom ‘ ‘Til Death’; Keith Carradine, who played a special agent in the ‘Dexter’ TV series; and Scott Bakula, known for his role as the captain in ‘Star Trek: Enterprise.’

Membership First, which has made issues affecting so-called middle-class actors a priority issue, opposes merging the two unions, contending that AFTRA has too many nonactors as members.

-- Richard Verrier

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