Candidate Answers – Jane Austin

1) As technology continues to accelerate, what plans do you have to increase the union’s IT capabilities, especially as it pertains to staff allocation and member interface?

The union’s IT capabilities need to be completely revamped, and I would increase the IT staff in order to stay up to date with all the data that needs to be organized and disseminated to the membership. Specifically, I would reduce the staff in the Communications department, and cut down on all the “consultants” that aren’t necessary. This would allow us to increase the budget in IT to hire more trained staff members. In regards to member interface, our website, while very pretty, is not user friendly, nor is it updated with correct information that our members can use. That’s a big problem that I intend to fix when I’m elected President.

2) Actor’s Equity recently held a vote on removing the dues cap. What are your thoughts regarding raising the SAG-AFTRA dues cap to match the rise of inflation since the number was set?

I’m all for raising the dues cap. What’s important though is to come up with a thoughtful, realistic plan on how to get this done. We need to be open to best ideas out there, and look at how the other performer categories deal with this issue. Once we can come to a consensus, then we can take action, and move forward so the entire membership is being protected.

3) Given the recent breakdown between the WGA & ATA and the fact that our members are also deeply impacted by agency conflicts of interest like packaging fees and producing, do you plan to negotiate a SAG-AFTRA franchise agreement with the ATA and/or end the suspension of Rule 16(g)?

I completely support the WGA’s actions. These conflict of interests affect the SAG-AFTRA member as well, and it’s important to assess and formulate what the best course of action is for our union in our dealings with the ATA. At this time though I will not divulge what my strategy would be in regards to Rule 16(g), but I can say that my approach and philosophy would be no different than what I described when talking about raising the due cap in the question above. I wouldn’t pretend to know that I know everything on every subject. I would reach out and bring together the best minds on this subject, get them in a room, talk it out, and come up with what the best strategy and course of action would be for the entire membership.

4) During the last few years, a serious issue came to light regarding actors working “Off the Card.” and the disciplinary process. Given those findings and the LA Times article regarding the actions taken against Kip Pardue, do you have any plans regarding increasing the effectiveness of our disciplinary process and penalties?

These issues are very serious, and there are a lot of moving parts to them. In order to clearly communicate my position on them however, they need to be separated out. In regards to actors working “off the card,” as a working class member who has worked her entire life at scale, I 100% understand and sympathize with the actor who is out there grinding it out to land that role, and how difficult it is to earn a living wage as a SAG-AFTRA member. However, it’s simply unacceptable, and it only weakens our union and our position in the industry. But if these members who work off the card don’t suffer the consequences then this problem will continue to grow. That’s why it’s not enough to just get the protections, we must enforce them as well, and that’s just not happening. As President I would immediately send a message that working off the card will not be tolerated.

In regards to the actions taken by the union against Kip Pardue, it is just so unfortunate that this behavior is even happening on sets. However, the union does have a disciplinary process in place, and we saw what happens when it is engaged by a member who is bringing charges against another member. We can always do better in this area, and I believe we will as awareness continues to grow that there are remedies available to SAG-AFTRA members if they’ve been the victim of harassment.

5) Recently many members have received emails from casting sites informing them about price increases in services. Do you have any plans or strategy to ease the financial burden the proliferation of online casting sites and self-tape requirements place on actors? Wouldn’t it add value to our members if SAG-AFTRA could provide our own casting site and is that feasible?

SAG-AFTRA members should not have to pay to work. Period. End of story. Our union has the resources to ease this financial burden, and I intend on making that happen. The “iActor” site is a disaster, and a new application needs to be created that simplifies and streamlines the way our members can connect with casting services. Also, the Los Angeles Conservatory hosted an incredible panel with casting directors specifically discussing self-taping, and busting all the myths surrounding it. Was that going to be recorded and made available to the membership? Not until I discovered that that it wasn’t. I was appalled. So I got involved, I got it recorded, and I am happy to say that it will be broadcast on the union’s YouTube page, and our entire membership will have access to this information that directly affects their career and paychecks.