Actress Gabrielle Carteris portrays a union president on the TV show “BH90210,” and now she’ll continue to serve as one in real life.
Carteris, who has been SAG-AFTRA president since 2016, was reelected Thursday after an unusually contentious campaign that highlighted long-standing rifts inside Hollywood’s largest union. The guild represents 160,000 members, including recording artists, broadcasters and dancers as well as actors and stunt performers.
She defeated veteran actor Matthew Modine, who had called for more transparency in the union and improvements for background actors, but whose campaign had drawn scrutiny over possible violations of federal labor law.
Carteris garnered 13,537 votes, or 44% of the ballots cast, compared to Modine, who received 10,682 votes or 35% of the ballots cast, SAG-AFTRA announced early Thursday morning. Carteris’ running mate, Camryn Manheim, won for national secretary-treasurer, with 16,047 votes or 52.97% of the ballots cast. She beat out three other candidates for the position, including Jodi Long, who was Modine’s running mate and garnered 10,251 votes or 34% of the ballots.
“I’m very grateful to all of the dedicated SAG-AFTRA members who participated in our union’s elections,” Carteris said in a statement. “Their support is humbling and I vow to fight every day on their behalf. We will keep building on our commitment to honesty, transparency and a strategic vision that protects our members, strengthens our contracts, and fortifies our union.”
But the election results also underscored deep divisions in the union that could pose a challenge to Carteris in her next term. The MembershipFirst faction that backed Modine made significant gains to strengthen its clout on the 80-member national board, winning about a dozen of 16 contested seats in the Los Angeles delegation.
Carteris will lead SAG-AFTRA during a period of upheaval in the entertainment industry that has fueled more labor unrest. The union in the coming months will enter sensitive negotiations on a new film and TV contract (the current one expires June 30). With the rise of streaming, many actors and other performers have seen an erosion of income from residuals, the fees they collect for reruns of shows and movies after their initial airing.
SAG-AFTRA recently negotiated a separate contract with Netflix that expanded the union’s coverage to workers who dub Netflix foreign language productions into English and increased the amount of theatrical residuals that performers receive on higher-budget Netflix films. Carteris has said she hoped to use the Netflix deal as leverage in negotiations with the studios.
Industry observers have noted that, in the event of a strike, SAG-AFTRA members could continue working for Netflix because the streaming giant is not a member of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, the collective bargaining group for studios.
“By doing this deal with Netflix, we were able to accomplish things in the negotiations that we would like to see reflected in the AMPTP [contract],” Carteris said in an interview this month.
Carteris, who ran on the Unite for Strength slate, also plans to continue the union’s work to end sexual harassment by, for example, developing guidelines for intimacy coordinators. She has also proposed fighting against harmful new technologies such as “deep fakes,” videos that use an actor’s image without his or her permission.
Carteris, 58, is most known for portraying Andrea Zuckerman on teen soap opera “Beverly Hills, 90210" and an older version of that character on Fox show “BH90210" that launched in August.
She became more active in the actors union after she suffered an injury in 2006 while working on a movie filming in Canada.
During her tenure as president, Carteris added more members to SAG-AFTRA, including Spanish-language performers at Telemundo, and oversaw the union’s efforts to address harassment on sets during the #MeToo era.
Some of her critics, including Modine, felt that Carteris didn’t move fast enough to address the concerns of sexual harassment victims. He called for language to be added to SAG-AFTRA’s constitution that would make it easier for the union to kick out members who engage in inappropriate behavior such as sexual harassment.
If Modine had won, he would have been the first president backed by the MembershipFirst slate since Alan Rosenberg led the union from 2005 to 2009. MembershipFirst, which has long advocated for a tougher stance in negotiations with the major studios, has clashed with the Unite for Strength faction for more than a decade.
Modine, 60, is known for his roles as Private Joker in “Full Metal Jacket” and Dr. Martin Brenner in Netflix sci-fi show “Stranger Things.”
In his campaign, he vowed to reduce infighting in the guild and advocate for all members, including background actors.
“The current leadership has failed to negotiate on their behalf,” Modine said in an interview this month.
But Modine came under scrutiny for videos on his campaign website that were produced by the New York Film Academy. Modine serves on the academy’s board and donates money for scholarships there. Legal experts said it is against federal law for union candidates to accept contributions or anything of value from a business.
Carteris said Modine’s actions “aren’t just flagrant violations of our union election rules, but of federal labor law as well.” A representative for Modine told the L.A. Times that Modine did not pay for the videos, which were educational public service announcements, and that his actions did not violate the law.
“I am proud of our campaign for transparency and the goal of uniting all 160,000 members of SAG-AFTRA,” Modine said in a statement Thursday. “It has been an honor to stand with you. I congratulate all of our Membership First candidates on winning important victories tonight. Each will be instrumental in forming a more perfect union.”
But Modine was not ready to concede defeat, saying it is “important to withhold judgment until it is determined that the election was held fairly and in compliance with the labor code.”
Modine did not elaborate, but he had previously accused Carteris of improperly using her position to boost her campaign. He criticized her for touting the Netflix deal in her candidate statement before it had been approved by the board. Carteris called the claim baseless.
An Atlanta slate that supported Carteris but is not part of her ticket also faced criticism for possible violation of the federal law after it received promotion on two employers’ Facebook pages earlier this month. SAG-AFTRA had those posts taken down and offered equal time to the opposing candidates, who refused the offer. The union then notified Atlanta members that they could request a replacement ballot and re-vote if they wished.
Other presidential candidates were stunt performer and national secretary-treasurer Jane Austin (who was previously affiliated with Membership First but ran as an independent), who drew 5,048 votes or about 16% of the ballots; self-described entertainment industry professional Queen Alljahye Searles, who had 1,096 votes or 3.57% of the ballots; and stuntman Abraham Justice, with 367 votes or 1% of the ballots.
In other election results, former “Home Improvement” star Patricia Richardson was elected to a two-year term as president of the L.A. local of SAG-AFTRA. Richardson, who was previously first vice president of the L.A. local, defeated Austin with 40% of the votes. She ran on the Membership First ticket. Rebecca Damon was reelected New York local president.