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Roberta Reardon's Remarks at October 2009 JLC Dinner

Thanks. This is for the leadership of AFTRA.

It is all about community. Rabbi Hillel, or Hillel the Elder, one of the most famous and important scholars in Jewish history: "œIf I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?"
Our work at AFTRA is very much aligned with the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that means "œrepairing the world" or "œperfecting the world."

We are committed to bring fair pay, safe working conditions, access to benefits and retirement security to all performers and broadcast journalists workin/g around the country in both large and small markets and at all budget levels - not the high-end, headline-grabbing productions, but smaller, less well-known productions that sustain members working outside of the major centers of New York and Los Angeles and that put food on the table and pay the bills for thousands or working class members.
Many think of the entertainment and news industries as glamorous or as populated with celebrities and the ultra-rich. Yes, our membership includes celebrities, but in AFTRA those celebrities (Robert Newman, Martha Reeves, Gabrielle Carteris and Robert Pine) lend us their support to help, not themselves, but the less powerful and famous working men and women. The truth is, without unions in the entertainment and news media, there would be no such thing as working or middle class performers and journalists. There would be only the very famous, and the very, very unfortunate.
This is part of our culture. Embracing diversity and building consensus to achieve power and effect change in the world - not just for ourselves - but for everyone working in the entertainment and news media and all Americans. Our success is your success and together our success can change the world.
In addition to our work bargaining better contracts to improve the lives, careers and communities of middle-class and middle-income members, our legislative and public policy agenda includes:

1) I AM PWD Campaign with SAG and Actors' Equity -Inclusion in the Arts & Media of People with Disabilities - award-winning national human rights and public awareness campaign launched in October 2008, endorsed by the AFL-CIO convention this past September;
2) Convention resolutions this past summer:
a. Requested that Congress moved forward to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with gender identity protections intact, and urge all AFTRA locals to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered men and women from discrimination in the workplace and support a fully inclusive legislation outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;
b. Resolved that AFTRA fully supports the public policy goal of delivering broadband access to all Americans, and calls upon the federal government to ensure that any policies, regulations, plans or laws include provisions to protect against the theft of intellectual property an the Internet;
3) Health and Retirement Issues Committee did not jump into the fray of statements condemning the Motion Picture and Television Fund's decision to. close its long-term care facility, and instead met with the Fund's CEO and are working with IATSE members in Los Angeles to. find a solution to solving problems and helping our brothers and sisters in need;
4) Employee Free Choice Act
I found two wonderful quotes about freedom of choice:
First, from Clarence Darrow:
"œYou can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free If I am free."
Next, Dwight D. Eisenhower:
"œOnly a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice."
The right to belong to a union is a basic human right.
That is the essence of the Employee Free Choice Act. Right now, the employers compel us to follow a dictatorial assignment by holding all the cards.
Thanks to the Jewish Labor Committee for its national outreach in support of the Employee Free Choice Act;
5) Performance Rights Act (endorsed by the NAACP at its 100TH Anniversary Convention in July)
6) Meaningful health care reform;
7) Working state-by-state to outlaw punitive non-compete clauses from broadcast journalists' contracts (these clauses make it almost impossible for journalists to accept employment in their local areas after leaving a station for defined period of time);
8) Advocating for improved federal shield law protections to protect reporters from being prosecuted for refusing to reveal their sources;
9) Organizing campaigns to protect the integrity of quality local news journalism which benefits both reporters and the public who have a right to the best possible news coverage in their area;
10) Opposing media consolidation which threatens our democracy by limiting local news and diversity;
11) Fighting for meaningful entertainment child labor protections in New York, specifically, and other states and on the federal level;
12) Working for the safety of news jouirnalists in dangerous zones throughout the world (the International news Safety institute is part of the AFTRA Foundation).

It's difficult to isolate the "œpurely humanitarian" activities of AFTRA because, in fact, everything we do at AFTRA is directed toward a humanitarian cause.