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Harris, Sheen, Leo on MembershipFirst Slate

Ed Harris Staying true to form, MembershipFirst will concede nothing, especially when it comes to the September elections.

The party announced yesterday that high-profilers Ed Harris (right), Martin Sheen, Ed Asner, and Melissa Leo (below) would compete for board seats--the first three in Hollywood, and Leo in New York, where she will be joined on the ticket by longtime character actor Tony Lo Bianco and Celia Weston, 1997 Tony nominee for her work in the play "The Last Night at Ballyhoo."

Melissa Leo Traditionally, SAG elections have been won by candidates with the greatest name recognition. With this slate, MembershipFirst is hoping to win back a majority, or at least prevent further erosion. And in New York, by running an Oscar nominee and actors with at least a little cache, the party also recognizes that it has to broaden its base, and not rely solely on Hollywood, if it wants to maintain a significant voice. For the past several years, moderates have held sway in Gotham and the regional branches.

As reported Friday, Anne-Marie Johnson will be the MembershipFirst candidate for president, secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens will seek reelection, and current national president Alan Rosenberg is stepping aside. (He will seek a national board seat, however.)

Variety reported yesterday that the presidential candidacy of Seymour Cassel, who has filed a candidate's petition with the guild, is in question, because he was found guilty by a SAG internal review board for "conduct unbecoming" a member for an incident on May 21. Don't know if there are any bylaws preventing someone who has been hit with such a charge from running. Guess we'll find out.

Those phantom editor-writers at SAGWatch.net report this: "We found nothing in the SAG constitution that would bar a member from running because of the charges, as long as they do not result in Cassel being found to be not in good standing at the time of election. Good standing is defined only as having your dues paid up." Kinda what we figured, but glad we didn't have to do the work ourselves. (We have five days left and a lot of work to do; get off our back.)

A partial list of the MembershipFirst slate is below. More names will be added as we get them. Official lists of candidates will be announced Aug. 10.

Basic-Cable Deal Approved: The national board overwhelmingly approved a tentative two-year deal with basic-cable networks and studios at the plenary Saturday. The previous basic-cable contract expired Dec. 19, 2008, and members were working off the terms of the old one. If ratified, actors will receive a 3.0 percent raise in the first year, a 3.5 percent raise the second, and a 0.5 percent increase to their pension-and-health funds. Ratification is a near certainty, as the board approved the deal by a vote of 95 percent to 5 percent.

Among other moves, the board narrowly approved a measure voicing opposition to the closing of the Motion Picture and Television Fund long-term care facility. Officials at the facility, citing rising costs, announced its closure earlier this year.

The MembershipFirst slate:

President: Anne-Marie Johnson
Secretary-Treasurer: Connie Stevens

Hollywood Board Candidates
Renee Aubry
Jane Austin
Jeff Austin
Joe Balogna
Clancy Brown
Jordana Capra
Bernie Casey
David Clennon
Brett Cullen
Joe d'Angerio
Anne DeSalvo
Anthony DeStantis
John Diehl
Kevin Dobson
Elliot Gould
Ron Harper
Ed Harris
Robert Hays
Hector Herrera
David Jolliffe
Diane Ladd
Marcus Lindsey
France Nuyen
Alan Rosenberg
Alan Ruck
Michele Santopietro
Charles Shaughnessy
Martin Sheen
Renee Taylor

New York
New York
Erik Anders-Nilsson
Mitch Green
Melissa Leo
Tony Lo Bianco
Matt Mulhern
Celia Weston

Photos: Getty Images

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Anne-Marie Johnson conducts herself very professionally in her volunteer elected work for the Screen Actors' Guild, and will make an excellent president should she be elected.

I am also heartened to see level-headed actors like Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, and Melissa Leo step up and offer their services to the Guild, should the members choose to elect them. Membership First has put together a strong and dedicated slate of actors for the regional boards.

While it is true that Membership First has a handful of high-profile actors on its slate, it's also true that these actors have spoken publicly, forcefully, and intelligently to issues of great import to the Guild. This is not a case of, "I'm famous, vote for me"; it's more accurate to say that these are actors who have demonstrated excellence in their craft as well as passion for protecting and improving the wages and working conditions of their fellow thespians. Martin Sheen in particular is also fearlessly outspoken on causes he cares about, damn the professional consequences. Ed Harris strikes me as a guy who doesn't suffer fools gladly, who prefers to get right to the heart of the matter. SAG's Hollywood Board could benefit mightily from their contributions.

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