DOL Opens Probe of National Union’s Election

The Dep’t of Labor is reportedly investigating last year’s national election of the Screen Actors Guild to determine whether alleged ballot irregularities influenced the outcome of the vote. Five SAG members petitioned DOL to intervene after SAG’s elections committee in Jan. scrapped the results of the Nov. election of SAG President Melissa Gilbert and two other national officers. The members argued that the elections committee lacked the authority to overturn the election and that they were biased toward Valerie Harper, who lost the presidential race to Gilbert by 1,588 votes out of about 28,000 votes cast.

The elections committee voted to scrap the election results because N.Y. members had two extra days to vote and the company that printed the East Coast ballots failed to include a signature line similar to ballots sent to members on the West Coast.

Although the members hoped their DOL petition would derail the new election, it will go as planned because DOL’s investigation could last up to 60 days. Ballots were mailed to SAG members Feb. 11 and are due by March 8, when the votes will be tabulated.

Harper issued a statement Feb. 6 saying the Nov. election was “badly bungled” and that she was confident DOL would protect union members’ “right to a fair and honest election.”

Amy Aquino, a SAG board member who is a Gilbert supporter, said some “Harper supporters took two benign procedural mishaps and they’re trying to turn these into violations.” In the most extreme case, the government could call for a SAG election that would be supervised by DOL. [L.A. Times 2/7/02]