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AFTRA Philadelphia Sessions Newsletter Feb. 2011

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AFTRA Philadelphia Sessions Newsletter Feb. 2011

Text of AFTRA Philadelphia Sessions Newsletter Feb. 2011

  • February 2011

    Official publication of the Philadelphia Local of The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

    TRI-UNION GROUP TAKES IT TO CITY HALLBy Bill Shusta, AFTRA National Board Member, Former KYW-AM broadcaster

    Members of the Tri-Union Chorus with Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown and our very own Rocky, John Monforto, after the adoption of the Council.

    My acting career began at age three as a Blue Forget-Me-Not in Snow White. My school days were filled with ballet classes and drama clubs. I got my degree in Theatre and joined my first professional union in 1980. The union was AFTRA.This past December, I joined a few other AFTRA, SAG and AEA members in Philadelphias City Council Chambers. A resolution was presented asking that union talent be used for City projects. A last minute substitution of AFTRA Philadelphia Executive Director Steve Leshinski as the opening speaker produced gaffaws when he quipped, Shelley Figures is my stage name. Despite the humorous introduction, several council members continued to shuffle papers or check their Blackberriess. Suddenly, they were startled to see Rocky Balboa jog into the center of the room. Rocky (John Monforto) directed their attention to the heavenly choir of union performers, The Tri-Union Chorus. Conducted by AEAs Tom Helmer, we sang a parody to Thats Entertainment inspired by John Di Domenico and written by Susan Moses.

    We razzled. City Council smiled. We dazzled. City Council chuckled. We even used jazz hands. City Council laughed. We ended with a flourish and four part harmony. City Council cheered and applauded.

    Applause. The sound every performer lives for. I felt proud to be a union actor.Yep. When you use union talent: Thats Entertainment!

    On Stage at City Hall By Meagan Hill

    View a pdf of the Resolution at

    It may not have started with this as a key goal, but the tri-union effort now underway in Philadelphia is all about JOBS. A move is afoot to increase the visability of the performing unions in the city. A tri-union commit-tee consisting of members of Actors Equity Association (E), Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA is behind this effort. It brought the group together back in August and the major move so far includes Philadelphia City Council. More on that in a moment.

    Concern over casting directors encouraging union members to work non-union and some of those members working off the card in another unions jurisdiction are major issues. The Liason Chair of the Philadelphia Equity Liason Committee, Tom Helmer, said thats more so with Actors Eq-uity members doing SAG and AFTRA work and one goal is to reverse this trend, through trying to educate our membership how important it is to support each other in our efforts to organize and create work opportuni-ties in Philadelphia. A second goal he says is to, find mutual ground in what we can achieve together as far as public policy in support of the arts and in support of entertainment in Philadelphia.

    The Philadelphia SAG Branch President, John Wooten, called the effort a show of unity among the performing unions, to stand together and not infringe on each others jurisdiction. Also, we are promoting the use of union contracts throughout our respective jurisdictions.

    AFTRAs Associate Executive Director Shelley Figures said of the local effort, The unions have been talking about this on a national level, but there is plenty to do locally. She said it was Helmer who called about holding a local meeting to focus on the issues.

    Figures said the first meeting was one of the most well attended gather-ings she had ever seen. The meeting resulted in a number of ideas being voiced. We talked about how we can support each others organizing efforts and do some kind of promotional outreach together.

    That brings me back to City Council. Meetings were held with City Coun-cilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown who agreed to present a non-binding resolution to Council touting the work of the performing unions in the city. It was presented at Councils December 9th meeting. Following the reading of the resolution by the Councilwoman, a member of each union addressed the body. Then, the talent of the union members was highlighted by the Tri-Union Chorus. The complete presentation took less than ten minutes

    and can be viewed on the Philadelphia AFTRA Facebook site and on the NBC-10 website. There also was a solid union member contingent present at the meeting.

    AEAs Helmer admitted it was a symbolic gesture but, It was a great opportunity to go before City Council and show our presence as three strong unions in the city with a lot of members who want to work here and live here. SAGs Wooten called it a great show of effort on the part of the three unions.

    It all goes back to jobs. Helmer says thats important. Especially for SAG and AFTRA members who have seen their opportunities decrease over the years because theres a lot of work that was union and [it has] turned non-union. He also said member involvement in union activities is crucial but hard to come by. Folks dont necessarily take union activities as a high priority. I wish they would appreciate the fact that in order to keep the union strong and vibrant and effective, it needs the participation of each and every one of its members.

    If interested in this tri-union effort, contact the AFTRA office to deter-mine how you can help.



    Shelley FiguresContributing Editors

    Stephen LeshinskiChuck Varesko


    Executive Dirtector

    Stephen LeshinskiAssociate Executive Director

    Shelley FiguresContracts/Signatory Admin.

    Lynn KoenigsbergBenefits & Membership Admin

    Michele Dooley



    Catherine Brown1st Vice President

    Chuck Varesko2nd Vice President

    Dick Sheeran Secretary

    Cyndy Drue Treasurer

    Ed FischerBoard Members

    Rob Charry, Sam Clover, John Di Domenico, Paul Kurtz, Sylvia Kauders, Tom McNutt, Susan Moses, M.J. Myers, Bill Shusta, Christy Springfield


    Susan Moses, Bill Shusta

    SESSIONSOfficial publication of the Philadelphia American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

    AFTRA PHILADELPHIA 230 South Broad St., Suite 500 Philadelphia215.732.0507Download Sessions

    Leadership Training


    I usually use this space to describe in so many words what AFTRA is up to and all of the latest activities of our motivated AFTRA members. This has been such a busy time, both locally and na-tionally, that I thought it would be easier to just list what weve been working on and send an open invitation to all of you to get involved!

    Our tri-union campaign brings together members of AFTRA, SAG, and Actors Equity to discuss common issues and plan joint activities. Youve read about our very successful December City Council resolution, well, that was just the beginning! We have an entire year of a Tri-Union Professional Develop-ment Speakers Tour planned out, starting with our Taxes and the Working Actor event on February 28th

    At our January Leadership Training it was decided to focus on branding and promoting AFTRA here in our market to producers, employers, members and non-members so when people hear AFTRA they immediately think of talented, professional broadcast and enter-tainment employees who stick up for themselves but always deliver and excellent product

    AFTRA is also reaching out to like-minded organizations like Broadcast Pioneers, Jobs with Justice, and Drexel University to generate some of our own synergy of like-minded media-types in order to maximize our networking and make as many connections as we can.

    This includes my recent election as an AFL-CIO Trustee to the Philadelphia Central La-bor Council. Its easy to forget, because of where we work, that we are full members of the CLC here in Philadelphia and give and get support to all of our union sisters and brothers in the Delaware Valley, from unionized nurses, teachers, and construction workers to mail carriers, utility workers, and university professors. Even though we may have very different jobs, we all have one thing in common: we all have to work for a living!

    So as you can see your union has been very busy and will continue to stay busy on behalf of all the members. In 2011, how will you get involved?

    By Catherine Brown, Philadelphia AFTRA President

    Twenty or so AFTRA members met on Sat-urday, January 29th, to discuss the past, pres-ent, and future of AFTRA. Guest speakers included attorney Jonathan Walters, Esq, from the law firm of Markowitz and Richman, and AFTRA National Organizing Director Phil Denniston.

    Jonathan discussed the history of labor and la-bor law in America, starting from the 1930s through today. Because AFTRA represents both broadcast employees and members working under freelance contracts a variety of laws apply to this union. But more than just a neutral rule book, these laws can help or hurt union growth and organizing and it was important for members to get an overview of how those laws apply to AFTRA.

    Next up was Phil who did an overview of AF-TRA history, asking members to identify themes in the history that started over 70 years ago. What really stood out was how many firsts AFTRA was involved in, and also the evolution of AF-TRA jurisdiction from radio to television to sound recordings and new media (in fact: AFTRA was originally AFRA, without the T; there wasnt any television yet to organize!)

    The day ended way past the scheduled closing time (always a good sign) as members discussed ways to get the word out about AFTRAs benefits and accom

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