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Addition of Four New Executives Set to Expand AFTRA Services and Outreach

LOS ANGELES (August 7, 2006)The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) formally announced to its National Board of Directors the appointment of four new executives as part of its continuing program of increasing services to AFTRA members and expanding outreach to all performers, broadcasters, and recording artists.

“These new appointees to our staff will work in close collaboration with our membership to increase employment opportunities, and to provide a voice on the job, for all performers, broadcasters, and recording artists,” said AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth.

Philip Denniston has been appointed National Director of Organizing and will be based in the National union’s New York offices beginning in late August. Denniston has been a lead organizer for the Health Professionals and Allied Employees, AFT, in New Jersey where he directed organizing campaigns for registered nurses, led internal organizing and contract campaigns, and trained organizing staff and union members. Prior to that, he served as director of the AFL-CIO/CWE Hudson Catskill Workforce Development Center in New York State. Denniston has also held positions as an organizer and organizing director for SEIU Local 1985 in Atlanta and SEIU Local 1199 in New York. Denniston earned his bachelor’s degree from the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

AFTRA has reorganized is National Department of  Information Technology, and appointed Natasha Shields as National Director of Information Technology, to head up IT operations for the 70,000-member union. Prior to joining AFTRA, Shields held a series of positions with private consulting firms where she provided project management, direction, and oversight of information technology systems for clients such as Fox Sports, Turner, Charles Schwab, as well as SEIU and AFSCME local unions in Southern California. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of California Los Angeles. Shields is based in the AFTRA National headquarters in Los Angeles and began her duties in late June.

In a long-awaited appointment, William F. Thomas was selected as Executive Director of the Los Angeles Local, following a search to replace John Russum who stepped down from the post in 2005. Thomas served in a variety of positions from 1990 to 2004 with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), the world’s largest performing rights organization. In 2002, he became assistant vice president and chief of staff for the 230,000-member organization, where he was responsible for public affairs, legislative advocacy on copyright and intellectual property issues, communications, and fundraising. Immediately prior to joining AFTRA, Thomas was a consultant at Fitch Thomas Management, consulting with venture capital and private equity firms in music, publishing, and technology fields. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts. Thomas begins full time with AFTRA after Labor Day. Mathis Dunn, AFTRA Assistant National Executive Director, has been serving as the interim executive director in Los Angeles since September 2005.

With the reorganization of the operations for AFTRA local unions in Dallas and Houston, TJ Jones has been appointed to serve as Texas Regional Executive Director. Jones owned and operated a talent agency in the Dallas area for 11 years, and gained experience in film and video production as producer of several independent projects. Prior to joining AFTRA, Jones was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Commerce, where she coordinated a variety of independent projects for the department.

Hedgpeth introduced the four new executives to Board members and AFTRA staff at the AFTRA National Board of Directors meeting in New York City on July 28-29.

About AFTRA:

The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists—affiliated with the AFL-CIO—is a diverse national union representing more than 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters and recording artists in 32 Locals throughout the country. AFTRA members work as actors, broadcast journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians and disc jockeys in all aspects of the media industries including television and radio, sound recordings, commercials, industrial non-broadcast, interactive games and the Internet. For more information, visit