Oregon governor enters fracas over closing of SAG-AFTRA office

David Giuntoli, left, plays as Nick Burkhardt and Russell Hornsby plays Hank Griffin in a scene from the TV series "Grimm."
David Giuntoli, left, plays as Nick Burkhardt and Russell Hornsby plays Hank Griffin in a scene from the TV series “Grimm.”
(Scott Green / NBC)

A squabble within SAG-AFTRA over closing the union’s Oregon branch has reached all the way to governor’s office.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has taken the surprising step of wading into the union’s controversial decision to shut its Oregon office, among 13 SAG-AFTRA locals that are closing nationwide.

SAG-AFTRA maintains that the closing is necessary to create more efficiencies within the sprawling labor organization, which formed last year from the merger of the two performers’ unions.

But in a sharply worded letter to SAG-AFTRA Executive Director David White, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber challenged the union’s decision. The Oregon office in Portland is scheduled to close Friday.


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“I would normally not engage in internal union operations such as the location of local union offices,’' Kitzhaber wrote in a letter to White. “However, this situation goes beyond local union operations and is more akin to a local business leaving Oregon: This is an economic development issue. Your union’s presence in this state is an economic asset for Oregon, and closing this office is problematic for Oregon as would be the loss of any business.”

Film industry backers have cited the economic benefits of television shows such as NBC‘s “Grimm” and the now-defunct TNT show “Leverage” and say closing the office will make it harder to attract such productions. IFC’s quirky “Portlandia” also is shot there.

“Oregon is invested in your industry and your local members. I urge SAG-AFTRA to reconsider its decision to leave Oregon without a local office so that we can continue to grow this industry, create good jobs and increase SAG-AFTRA membership in our state,” Kitzhaber added in his letter.

A spokeswoman for SAG-AFTRA responded: “We love the fact that Gov. Kitzhaber is so supportive of our members and appreciate his desire to expand the work of our industry in Oregon. We agree with him and expect to continue our good work with his offices to advance the interests of our membership. Whether or not we have a physical office in this state will not change this fact. We are working to bring more effective services and support to all SAG-AFTRA members, wherever they live and work around the globe.”


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