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New York members Maureen Donnelly and Dan Ingram took to the Seattle streets on Day 2 of the AFTRA National Convention to support UNITE HERE's Local 8 workers at the Westin Seattle.

Convention Update: Day 2 of the AFTRA National Convention Continues in Seattle

Posted July 23, 2011

Resolution supporting Joining Forces initiative among business conducted

AFTRA delegates convened in Seattle for Day 2 of the AFTRA National Convention following a night of music, fun and sea otters at the opening night social at the Seattle Aquarium.

Day 2 brought the business of the union to the convention floor, where the more than 200 delegates received reports from National Treasurer Matthew Kimbrough and National Director of Finance John Eilhardt. The delegates also received an update on the efforts to form one new union with Screen Actors Guild.

Several convention resolutions were also presented during the day, including one “Endorsing the Joining Forces Inter-Guild Task Force,” which further emphasizes AFTRA’s commitment to supporting military families and veterans by joining with other industry groups to provide creative and production support to the program, which is spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

The morning started with several special guest speakers, including a video message welcoming delegates to Seattle from Congresswoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

“The voices of working families are having a harder and harder time being heard these days," Murray said in the video. “We need to continue standing up for workers making sure they have the support they need.”

Union Plus President Leslie Tolf also addressed delegates, discussing the many discounts, perks and programs the AFL-CIO organization provides to union members and staff.

"I am honored and a little intimidated to be here today in this fantastic and gorgeous crowd,” Tolf joked. “I have to say it is the most fun union to be with."

During her presentation, Tolf announced that if delegates and staff texted “AFTRA” to 22555, Union Plus would donate $10 toward scholarships, with an additional $10 being donated if those who use AT&T –the only union organized phone company – texted. Additionally, Tolf pledged that Union Plus would match what was raised in their text-a-thon to the AFTRA Foundation. So far, more than $3,700 has been raised with a goal of $5,000. Members and the public can also participate by texting “AFTRA” to 22555.

AFTRA also welcomed to the dais members of UNITE HERE Local 8, the union that represents employees of the Westin Seattle hotel where the convention is taking place. Local 8 has been locked in negotiations with the hotel and its parent owner, Starwood Hotels.

Local 8 leaders Rick Sawyer and Erik Von Rossum spoke to the delegates and introduced hotel employees Mardillo Arnold (banquet) and Flora Tabalng (housekeeping).

"All of us know that’s it’s been a difficult time for workers in the United States. I think we can all agree that the one surviving important principle we all agree on is worker unity,” Sawyer said. “It is the principle that helps us move forward and succeed."

Von Rossum gave kudos to the convention delegates – all of whom signed a petition to Elisabeth James, the general manager of the Westin Seattle, urging the hotel to settle a fair contract soon.
"On behalf of these workers and all the workers at the Westin hotel, they can tell AFTRA is in Seattle!” he said. “The electricity that you have brought to this hotel is amazing. We are excited for the support you are bringing."

In the early evening, delegates adjourned early to join Local 8 for a large rally outside the hotel. AFTRA members and staff proudly displayed AFTRA t-shirts and “AFTRA in Solidarity” signs and chanted Union Power as they left the Convention Hall and marched through the lobby to join the rally in the street outside the Westin Seattle. A petition with more than 300 signatures from AFTRA members will be delivered to the hotel’s general manager.

The afternoon session started with the presentation of the American Scene Awards, which honors employers in the entertainment and media industry for their positive, balanced and realistic portrayal of performers of color, people with disabilities, women and seniors and other misrepresented or under-represented groups.

This year’s honorees are:
Crystal Award: “Switched at Birth” (ABC Family)

Crystal Award: CBS Television Network (Josie Thomas, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer and Fern Orenstein, Vice President of Casting)

Comedy Program Award: “Modern Family” (Lloyd-Levitan Productions and 20th Century Fox Television)

Dramatic Program Award: “Parenthood” (Imagine Television and Universal Media Studios)

“Belva Davis” Television News Station Award: KGO-TV, ABC 7  San Francisco

Talk or Variety Program Award: “Lopez Tonight” (ALD Productions; Telepictures Productions; George Lopez, Robert Morton and Jim Paratore, Executive Producers)

Talent Competition Award
: “The Voice” (One Three Television)

Digital Animation Award: Nickelodeon, Uptown Productions

Reality Program Award: “We’re Going to Go Guerilla” episode of “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” (Fresh One Productions; Ryan Seacrest Productions; ABC Studios)

Television News Programming Award: “Miss Katie’s Class” (WKRC-TV/Local 42, Cincinnati, Jeff Hirsh, reporter)

Delegates were treated to a surprise performance by “The Voice” finalist Vicci Martinez, who sang her rendition of the Dolly Parton classic “Jolene.”

“Our show, we inspire other people to live their truth," Martinez said of the reality program’s diverse cast of contestants.

The 63rd AFTRA National Convention convened again Saturday morning to continue the Union's business. National Officer elections will be held in the evening.

For more convention news and information, go to www.aftra.com/Convention2011.htm.

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