Gabrielle Carteris has been elected president of SAG-AFTRA, in a historic decision that means for the first time the top three union officers are women, the union’s national board announced Saturday.
The board also elected Rebecca Damon as executive vice president; Jane Austin was elected secretary-treasurer last year. Carteris was voted in by acclamation and is the successor to Ken Howard, who served as president before he died March 23 at the age of 71.
“I am deeply honored to be chosen by the SAG-AFTRA National Board to serve the union and its members as president,” Carteris said in a statement. “Ken was a great union leader, friend and mentor. He left big shoes to fill, but with the support of the national board of directors and the membership, I am committed to improving the lives of all SAG-AFTRA members.”
Carteris was widely expected to be voted in as the new president. She belongs to the same faction that was led by Howard and that dominates the national board. SAG-AFTRA represents more than 160,000 people, including actors, announcers and broadcast journalists.
“I congratulate Gabrielle Carteris on her election as president of SAG-AFTRA. Gabrielle and I have worked closely together for many years, including most recently on the successful commercials contracts negotiations. I know she understands the needs and aspirations of our members and I am excited to work with her to continue advancing the goals of this union,” said David White, SAG-AFTRA national executive director.
Damon’s and Carteris’ election created a trifecta of leading women for the union. Austin, a stuntwoman, defeated actress Jenny O’Hara to become secretary-treasurer.
“She is a deeply experienced and effective leader who will work with President Carteris and the national board to engage and empower members throughout the country,” White said of Damon, who is a working actress and voice-over performer.
Damon added: “As executive vice president, I will continue working to expand SAG-AFTRA’s reach and to increase opportunities for members across the country. Following the peerless example of our beloved late president, Ken Howard, we will focus on member outreach to maximize the solidarity and bargaining strength of our remarkable union.”
Carteris’ election also marks the first time the union has had to replace a president who died in office.