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    Posted October 19, 2009

< return to 2009 archives

Elections: Our Right, Our Privilege, Our Duty

By Brian Cooper
Councillor,
Chair, 2009 Nominating Committee

It's that time again - time to elect members for Equity's Council. That's right, about one fifth of the seats on the National Council of our Association are up for grabs. This is your chance to throw the bums out, show 'em who's boss, get some fresh blood in there - I mean, isn't it always the same tired faces - who are these people anyway? Who made them boss of me?

Well, frankly, you did-when you voted in the last Officer election three years ago. And when you voted five years ago for most of the Councillor incumbents you will see on this year's ballot. You did vote, didn't you? Of course you did, because you realize that an informed, active membership is what keeps any democracy relevant, fair, vital, effective, and truly representative of the members' wishes and best interests.

"What," you say? "You didn't vote? OMG!! If you didn't vote, then who's flying this plane? I thought you were in charge of things. I mean, I didn't vote because I thought you had things under control. If you didn't vote, then who did? Some other bozo, clearly. Which explains the bozos we have running this show. Well, I'm washing my hands of the whole mess. Let it be someone else's problem."

Apathy always makes things better, doesn't it?
No. In fact it doesn't. Here are some facts:

You run our union. You, and I, and every one of us... fly the plane, steer the ship, provide guidance to the leadership -- by voting! And that's just the beginning of your involvement in how things run at Equity. You... can participate in the general membership meetings, serve on contract and special interest committees, negotiate contracts with our bargaining partners, decide grievances, deny (or allow) concessions, decide who gets nominated for office, and yes, even run for office yourself!

If you've been thinking about getting more involved, I have the perfect way for you to dip your toes into the waters of Equity politics: serve on the 2010 Nominating Committee! The time commitment is compact (usually just a few weeks in late January through mid-to-late February), you'll get to meet the people who aspire to lead our union and pose your questions directly to them, and then actually decide who you think is most deserving of the Nominating Committee's nomination to office. The work is exciting and important, and all you have to do to be a part of it is to attend the January Membership Meeting and volunteer your services. The only requirements for service are that you are a paid up member in good standing, and that you qualify for one of the three employment categories: Principal, Chorus, or Stage Manager. Did I mention that lunch is often provided? Free lunch plus a terrific primer on how Equity works and the issues and challenges we face -- past, present, and future.

If you've been thinking about stepping up yourself, this is the time to craft those thoughts into a plan of action. To run for a seat on Equity's Council, the requirements are the same as serving on the Nominating Committee (you must qualify in one of the three employment categories and be a paid-up member in good standing). The Election Packets will be available from the three major office cities beginning on Tuesday, January 12, 2010, and will be due back in the office no later than 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, February 8, 2010 if you wish to appear before your Regional Nominating Committee (which you may also do via telephone hookup if you are 75 miles outside of a major office city), or no later than 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, March 5, 2010 if you are running by Petition. A couple of notes about running by petition vs running by nomination by the Nominating Committee: both are equally valid ways to put your hat in the ring, and should you appear before the Nominating Committee but don't garner the nomination you sought, you can still run via petition by gathering the requisite 17 signatures of paid-up members from your Region.

People like you do all of those things and more, volunteering their time to run things in NY, Chicago, LA and across the country, trying to make things better for all Actors everywhere. They didn't wait around for someone else to get their hands dirty while they reaped all the benefits of their Equity membership, all the while complaining about how "Equity doesn't care about me," "Equity doesn't know what it's like out here in the trenches," "Equity just wants my dues, and I get nothing for my money." They saw the work that needed to be done and stepped up to do it.

One final word on the elections: Actors' Equity Association is you... and me, and every Equity member you know: almost 49,000 strong across the country. We are Equity, and we run our union, and we make those decisions. We make our union strong... by being involved. Not everyone will choose to serve as an elected [and BTW, unpaid] official, but we can all choose to shoulder our responsibility to vote. We can do that from the comfort of our homes, by paper ballot or online (Be Green: register early for online voting in the Members Only section of the website). Just read the candidates' statements, maybe reach out to a member you know who is more directly involved for some insight, and vote! You don't have to vote for a candidate for every available seat - vote for those candidates you feel will represent your views and your best interests. And the next time you hear about "Equity" doing something you don't like - contact those folks you voted for who actually got elected (chances are at least some of your picks made it through) and let them know why you voted for them and how this decision doesn't reflect your interests. Chances are, they will respond one way or another, agreeing with you or explaining their actions. You may be swayed; you may not. You may still disagree with them but find you've developed a new respect for their view. Or maybe you won't. And if they run for re-election, you can throw the bums out... or not. It's up to you.






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