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Fran Drescher is wielding her ‘star power’ to maximize SAG-AFTRA’s influence

April 4, 2022, 1:27 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Carrie Lam won’t seek a second term as leader of Hong Kong, 300,000 women entered the workforce last month, and Fran Drescher is wielding her star power to run SAG-AFTRA. Go get your Monday.

– Star quality. Last fall, Fran Drescher was elected president of SAG-AFTRA. The actress, known for her leading role on The Nanny, embodied a presence that prompted union leaders to recruit her to run: star power.

“We are the biggest influencers on the globe,” Drescher says of the 160,000 performers and media professionals she now represents. “We have a responsibility as the largest entertainment union in the world. You can’t underestimate star power.”

Taking on a leadership role isn’t new for Drescher; she produced The Nanny, which ran from 1993 to 1999, and she launched the nonprofit Cancer Schmancer after her own cancer diagnosis. “Having vision, being a president, dealing with a board, realizing your ideas, setting goals, and putting your views out there—it’s all the same,” she says, reflecting on how her past experiences inform her current work. Still, the volunteer position of union president is a shift, and one that sometimes requires up to seven hours of her day.

Fran Drescher, now president of Hollywood labor union SAG-AFTRA.
Photograph by Angela Weiss

Drescher succeeded actress Gabrielle Carteris, known for her role in 90210, as SAG-AFTRA’s head. The new president says that Carteris made a “strategic move” in asking her to run, hoping Drescher’s celebrity would give prominence to the organization. And yet, Drescher’s election representing the Unite for Strength slate wasn’t easy; she defeated rival Matthew Modine 52.5% to 47.5% in a race that was at times contentious.

Now at the helm, Drescher hopes to win the support of members who didn’t vote for her. “I want people who voted for me to be thrilled that they voted for me, and those that didn’t to say, ‘By golly, I didn’t vote for her, but I’m glad she won,'” she says.

Preventing sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and encouraging the on-set use of intimacy coordinators are among Drescher’s priorities. Last month, the union accredited seven training programs to try to increase the pool of professionals qualified to guide onscreen nudity and sex scenes (so far, many intimacy coordinators have learned on the job, coming in with dance or stunt choreography backgrounds).

Union leaders who encouraged Drescher to run also hoped that she’d be able to use her nonprofit leadership experience to lobby Washington. Earlier this year, she put those skills to the test as Congress debated the American Music Fairness Act, which would pay performers royalties when their music is played on AM/FM radio.

And, of course, Drescher will be at the helm as the union advocates for COVID-19 protocols that keep its members safe; responds to crises, like the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film Rust; and engages in contract negotiations next year.

It’s been a big week for unions, after the historic labor victory for Amazon warehouse workers on Staten Island. And it’s a big week for SAG-AFTRA too: Wednesday marked the 10-year anniversary of the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. The occasion has Drescher thinking about how she can guide the union into its next decade.

“Everything that I have done and accomplished in my life,” she says, “really can all be applied to this position in this one defining moment.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Recording history. The University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative published its annual report on diversity in the recording industry ahead of the Grammys. The initiative examined 1,000 popular songs between 2012 and 2021, and found that women made up 21% of artists, 12.7% of songwriters, and 2.8% of producers. Then, at the Grammys last night, Olivia Rodrigo took home the best new artist award while Doja Cat rushed to the stage to make a speech after winning best pop duo/group performance with SZA while she was in the bathroom. Louis C.K., despite admitting to sexual misconduct, won best comedy album. 

- Voting schedule. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote today on advancing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor. The panel vote is likely to be along party lines, and Jackson's nomination is expected to receive a full vote (and likely confirmation) by the end of the week. CNN

- Out of office. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam won't seek a second term as chief executive. Lam entered office, backed by Beijing, in 2017. Her tenure has included Hong Kong's controversial national security law and widespread protests over the erosion of civil freedoms. She says she is stepping back to spend time with family. BBC

- Slam dunk. South Carolina has a new basketball dynasty: the women's team clinched the N.C.A.A. championship Sunday night, beating Connecticut 64-49. Aliyah Boston ended the season as the league's player of the year by several measures. South Carolina is now poised to be only the fourth program in women’s college basketball history to repeat a championship win. Washington Post

- Back to work. The March U.S. jobs report saw 300,000 women enter the workforce, boosting the overall labor force participation rate to its highest level since February 2020. An increase in hiring in the child care sector helped achieve the milestone, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh says. Washington Post

- Game, set, match. Polish tennis player Iga Swiatek won the Miami Open in a final against Naomi Osaka on Saturday. The win cements Swiatek's world No. 1 ranking, after Ashleigh Barty's early retirement, but the match was also meaningful for its players. Two years ago, Osaka convinced Swiatek to not give up on professional tennis. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Michele Bullock is now deputy governor of Australia's Reserve Bank, putting her in line to likely be the first woman to run the institution. Huawei promoted CFO Meng Wanzhou to be one of its three rotating chairmen, a leadership position that confirms her rising role within the company following her release from detention in Canada. Pegasus Airlines chief commercial officer Güliz Öztürk will become the company's CEO. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- White male footprint. Expensify is taking the idea of "offsetting" negative business effects beyond carbon footprint. The expense reporting company says it will donate 25 cents for every dollar it pays to white male employees to its company nonprofit, Expensify.org. Those donations are meant to fund "social justice and equity efforts." Financial Times 

- Trial report. The defense rested its case late last week in the trial of four men accused of attempting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Prosecutors showed evidence including messages from one defendant who considered posing as a pizza delivery man to kidnap and kill the governor. Two men pleaded guilty. NBC News

- Depression gap. Women in midlife have some of the highest rates of antidepressant use (one in five women between ages 40 and 59, compared to one in 10 from 18 to 39). Scientists are now trying to figure out why this demographic of women suffers from higher rates of depression. They suspect estrogen withdrawal during menopause to be a factor, and are developing targeted treatments to alleviate menopause's impact on mental health. Wall Street Journal

- All aboard. The U.S. Navy will name a ship after the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. USNS Ruth Bader Ginsburg is meant to honor the legacy the justice left for women, including "women of all backgrounds, experiences and talents serving within [Navy] ranks, side by side with their male Sailor and Marine counterparts," says Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro. NPR

ON MY RADAR

Emma Grede steps into the spotlight—and onto your TV screen Elle

The thing she carried: What Ukrainian refugees brought from home The Cut

Valérie Lemercier's Céline Dion kinda-bio-pic The New Yorker

PARTING WORDS

"Generations to come will look at coins bearing these designs and be reminded of what can be accomplished with vision, determination, and a desire to improve opportunities for all."

- United States Mint Acting Director Alison L. Doone on five women being featured on quarters next year. The honorees are Edith Kanaka‘ole, a native Hawaiian hula teacher; Bessie Coleman, the first Black and first Native American female pilot; Jovita Idár, a Mexican American journalist; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt; and Maria Tallchief, the first Native American prima ballerina.

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