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Delegates to AFTRA National Convention Elect Actor Roberta Reardon
National President and Support Direct AFL-CIO Affiliation

PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2007)—The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists concluded its biennial National Convention Saturday at the Philadelphia Sheraton Center City Hotel with a wide range of actions including the election of New York actor Roberta Reardon as National President; a resolution to seek direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO; and the recognition of 10 programs and productions for their diverse portrayals of the American Scene.

Almost 200 professional performers, broadcasters, and sound recording artists—serving as convention delegates elected by AFTRA members from 32 Local Unions throughout the country—assembled on July 19 for the three-day 61st National Convention, the highest governing body of AFTRA. Delegates to the convention celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding of AFTRA in 1937 as the American Federation of Radio Artists.

Reardon—who had been selected by the AFTRA National Board to serve as National President to complete the remainder of the term of John Connolly—was elected by unanimous acclamation to a full two-year term as National President.

“I am humbled to be elected as AFTRA National President,” Reardon told the delegates in accepting the position. “I am also excited to be able to move together into future with all of you to improve the lives of AFTRA members.”

National First Vice President Bob Edwards, satellite radio host from Washington, DC, was reelected to his post. Los Angeles actor Ron Morgan moved from being an unnumbered vice president to National Second Vice President. 

New National Vice Presidents elected by the delegates include San Francisco actor Denny Delk, New York actor Holter Graham, former Chicago news broadcaster Dick Kay, San Francisco broadcaster Bob Bulter, Philadelphia TV news producer Catherine Brown, Nashville singer Jim Ferguson, and former Boston TV journalist Shelby Scott.

In other national offices, Los Angeles actor Matt Kimbrough was elected National Treasurer and New York actor Lainie Cooke was elected National Recording Secretary. All officers will serve two-year terms.

With a margin of 91%, delegates voted in special session for AFTRA to take steps to obtain a direct national charter from the AFL-CIO. AFTRA currently has indirect affiliation with the AFL-CIO through membership in the Associated Actors and Artistes of America. The delegates authorized the AFTRA National Board to formally withdraw AFTRA from the 4As upon direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO.

“As we look at the 21st century media industry, we see that significant parts of our membership can be more fully served by direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO,” said Reardon. “This is a move that honors AFTRA’s diverse jurisdictions covering performers, broadcasters, and recording artists. With our own seat at the table of labor, AFTRA can begin to explore the many opportunities for strategic alliances with other media unions that are not part of the 4As.”

Although AFTRA would withdraw its membership in the 4As if direct affiliation with the AFL-CIO is finalized, AFTRA will continue to maintain cooperative working relationships with the 4As and its member guilds, including joint negotiating agreements with the Screen Actors Guild.

In other resolutions, the delegates:
• Reaffirmed support of “meaningful national health care reform” and encouraged AFTRA members to take action to achieve reform.
• Agreed on a set of “diversity principles” for AFTRA that commit efforts to make sure the diversity of its membership is reflected in elected leadership and staffing positions and “condemn racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination based on disability and age, within our industries and in the community at large.”
• Encouraged the AFTRA Foundation to participate in the GoodSearch program, an internet search engine power by Yahoo, and for AFTRA members to designate the Foundation as their designated charity in the program. 

Both Reardon and AFTRA National Executive Director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth brought delegates to their feet with wide-ranging reports on the state of AFTRA. 

“AFTRA is on the march, organizing work with solid union standards and provisions, ensuring work opportunity for all our members,” said Reardon in outlining successes in satellite radio, sound recordings, basic cable, free TV, new media, and other areas.

“The next few years will be years of struggle. Defining ourselves in the new ‘digital age’ will require fierce determination. But I am confident that the brothers and sisters of this union are up to the task. After all, the American Federation of Radio Artists was born in a technology revolution 70 years ago. And the ‘T’ was added to AFRA when television became the ‘Next Big Thing’,” Reardon said.

Noting the recent growth of AFTRA by 2,300 members since 2005, Hedgpeth said, “AFTRA has turned around a slide in membership that began at the turn of the century. Active organizing and legislative efforts designed to keep work both union and made in America—combined with the growth of TV program formats such as reality, variety, contests, as well as AFTRA’s original areas of dramatic programming—has caused AFTRA to grow.”

Charting a course for AFTRA, Hedgpeth said, “AFTRA has the potential to emerge stronger from the maelstrom of new technology, shifting business models, and globalization, which now buffet our media industries. You, as elected delegates to this National Convention, have every reason to be confident, in looking at the steps already taken, that your union has the potential to move organizing and to build union density in our industries that will bring the best wages and benefits to as many American performers and broadcasters as possible.”

The multiple award-winning children’s program “Sesame Street,” the top-rated reality talent competition “American Idol,” and the daytime drama “Passions” joined seven other recipients that were honored Friday with the AFTRA 2007 American Scene Award®, recognizing excellence in programming that portrays diversity in a positive and realistic light.
"Diversity is truly alive within our American scene,” said Reardon. “For over 37 years, ‘Sesame Street’ has used the medium of television to teach diversity and positive values to our children. Its contributions are second to none and deserving of our top honor, the ‘Crystal’ Award. We are also proud to honor ‘American Idol,’ ‘Passions,’ and a range of excellent television and radio programs that span the continent.”

Other American Scene Award® winners include WUSA9 news team from Washington, DC; ABC7 reporter Harry Porterfield from Chicago; Falcon Picture Group of Chicago;, KMOV-TV in St. Louis; Waterfront Soundings Productions in Oakland, Calif.; WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh; and the San Francisco Bay Area-based Service Employees International Union—United Healthcare Workers. 

Bestowed on "those who have made a significant contribution to AFTRA and its members," AFTRA’s highest honor—the George Heller Memorial Gold Card—was awarded to AFTRA New York Local member Janette Gautier, who is chair of the AFTRA Heller Memorial Scholarship Fund and has served members for more than 30 years in various local and national capacities, and to former AFTRA Los Angeles Local President Susan Boyd Joyce, who recently was the volunteer executive producer of a 30-minute documentary that tells an emotional story about the history of AFTRA and the work of current members to secure its future. 

AFTRA Washington/Baltimore Local General Counsel Tom Powers and AFTRA New York Local active members Dan Ingram and Maureen Donnelly, who were past Gold Card recipients, made the presentations. 

In a special ceremony, delegates paid tribute to former National President John Connolly for his work and dedication as National President.  Motown vocalist and AFTRA Detroit Local Board Member Martha Reeves was also given a salute by delegates for “her willingness to put her long-standing career and professional reputation on the line in testimony and action” on behalf of AFTRA members. 

Retiring local executive directors John Kailin of Philadelphia, John Sandifer of Seattle, and Loraine Heuer of Portland, Ore., were recognized for their years of service to AFTRA members. 

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street opened the National Convention on Thursday with warm greetings to delegates.

Delegates selected Chicago as the host city for the 62nd National Convention in summer 2009.


About AFTRA:
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, AFL-CIO, are the people who entertain and inform America. More than 70,000 professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists are moving forward together through AFTRA to protect and improve our jobs, lives, and communities. AFTRA members embrace change in society—from new culture to new technology—and incorporate change in our work and craft. AFTRA celebrates and thrives on the diversity of our members and the work we do. AFTRA opens a whole new world of opportunities for success for professional performers, broadcasters, and recording artists. In 32 Locals across the country, AFTRA members work as actors, journalists, dancers, singers, announcers, hosts, comedians, disc jockeys, and other performers across the media industries including television, radio, cable, sound recordings, music videos, commercials, audio books, non-broadcast industrials, interactive games, the Internet, and other digital media. Visit AFTRA at