PORTLAND, OREGON—(06/01/2023) 2021 SAG-AFTRA National Convention Delegate Erik Nicolaisen has announced his run for Union Leadership. “I really have no choice but to serve in SAG-AFTRA leadership again,” says the Portland native, University of Oregon football player, turned Hollywood actor. “Our union is sinking fast, and this may very well be our last chance to save it.” Nicolaisen states
As a National Delegate in the last election, Nicolaisen has been tirelessly working to defend SAG-AFTRA members from ongoing ADA and Title VII discrimination as well as gross violations of the SAG-AFTRA Constitution by current leadership and staff over the last three years. Nicolaisen has been utilizing his legal connections and creative business skills to spearhead multiple legal cases in defense of SAG-AFTRA members, including his own NLRB claim in the first few months of his freshman term.
“Out of the chutes I caught our leadership & staff violating our own SAG-AFTRA Constitution in a desperate attempt to keep my Medical Freedom Resolution from being discussed at our National Convention. My Resolution would have protected members from States rescinding women’s bodily rights via the removal of Roe vs. Wade protections, as well as the unprecedented medical mandates that gave away our privacy protections and kept so many SAG-AFTRA members from earning a living. My Resolution was unanimously passed by two locals, and our national leadership chose to violate SAG-AFTRA Constitution to censor debate on this topic on the Convention floor. That was quite an eye-opener, and it really set the stage for my busy last two years in leadership.” Nicolaisen said.
“I have been impressed with Erik’s service to our members: His business savvy, his care for his union brothers and sisters, and his ferocious drive. He has helped so many understand the importance of choosing our words carefully. I wholly support him in making the best choices for our Union.”
- Union Sister, Kim Renee, President of SAG-AFTRA Nevada Local Board
After studying theater and playing football at the University of Oregon, Nicolaisen made his way to Hollywood where he quickly amassed an impressive resume that includes notable National Commercials, Video game, and film and TV roles (www.eriknicolaisen.com). While his bookings increased every year, his earnings steadily dropped, thanks in large to the SAG-AFTRA contracts that he says gutted his previous income. With a wife and a newborn son at home, Nicolaisen could no longer depend on his acting roles to put food on the table. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and instead of complaining, Nicolaisen started a mural painting company in 2011 (www.oldcityartists.com) as a means to supplement his dwindling acting income, allowing him to continue the pursuit of his acting dreams, and simultaneously provide for his growing family (Now three kids and two Labrador retrievers).
Nicolaisen admits that he never considered union service before the last election and was always turned off by the divisive partisan camps within SAG-AFTRA. Frustrated with the ever-falling rates and proliferation of non-union work, he realized that if he wanted to keep his acting ambitions alive, he would need to get involved in the repair of SAG-AFTRA via a role in union leadership.
Nicolaisen states “It’s do or die time for us members to step up and take the reins. Our own union had the gall to kick our senior citizens off the healthcare plan they’ve paid for their entire careers. Our own union allowed the media giants to destroy our TV and Film residual structure and rebuild that model on their own streaming platforms--this time without the obligations to our membership. Our union is more concerned with our dues money and introducing additional member categories to financially harvest, than they are ensuring that our current members are working and getting paid living wages.”
Even in banner years, with a bevy of co-star roles and national television commercials booked, Nicolaisen says members barely qualify for SAG- AFTRA healthcare. “Fewer than 17% of members actually qualify for SAG-AFTRA health insurance” – “A sobering statistic” that Nicolaisen says highlights the failings of the current leadership. “The streaming rates have gutted this union, and every new contract is worse than the previous one. Today, you are either a Hollywood Star or a hobbyist - The middle-class working actor is becoming extinct thanks to decades of SAG-AFTRA contract giveaways. Why we continue to think that this current leadership should still be allowed to negotiate on our behalf is beyond me.”
Nicolaisen has also been working closely with west coast Real Estate analysts in review of the recent purchase of the new SAG-AFTRA Los Angeles headquarters at 12020 Chandler in North Hollywood, CA. Nicolaisen claims the purchase was both reckless and concerning. “I am in full support of buying brick and mortar offices for our members. But our leaders committed to 10 more years of rent at the current headquarters, and then turned around and paid almost twice the appraised value for the new building at the height of the worst Commercial Office market in history.
Our “leadership” spent $47.1 Million of our cash on a building that appraised for $23.2 Million before the commercial office market imploded. Who is running this union? Who is advising? That is OUR money!” Nicolaisen says.
“Erik Nicolaisen has my full support. He’s whip-smart and has ethics. I’ve known Erik for quite some time; his energy and ambition would be an asset to our National Boardroom. This Union needs more strong Unionists like him.”
- Peter Antico, 2023 Secretary-Treasurer Candidate
A Portland Local SAG-AFTRA member since 2006, Nicolaisen now splits his time between Portland and Los Angeles. Considering that industry trends begin in Los Angeles, and eventually make their way up to Portland, Nicolaisen’s understanding of both markets is a net benefit for SAG-AFTRA Portland Local leadership. With a wide network of industry contacts in both L.A. and Portland, Nicolaisen can draw from both areas to create stronger bonds between the two markets, providing the Portland Local a unique understanding of Hollywood and greater National trends so that Portland leadership can be proactive instead of reactive. He also wants to utilize his contacts to help facilitate more production in the state of Oregon.
“Drawing on my relationships with National SAG-AFTRA leadership and star name actors brings undeniable value to the Portland local.” Nicolaisen emphasizes that SAG-AFTRA members should have a clear understanding of the value of being a SAG-AFTRA member, but to accomplish that, the union needs to actually work for the benefit of the members. Nicolaisen says the current SAG-AFTRA leadership relies on secrecy and a steady stream of propaganda to sell the terrible contracts to its’ members, and every year the working SAG-AFTRA member finds it hard and harder to make ends meet.
“In Portland, we should at the very least have access to SAG-AFTRA run self-tape facilities, conservatory classes taught by respected actors, and when the market is right, a brick and mortal SAG-AFTRA office. These should be basic services for our dues-paying Portland SAG-AFTRA members. Members need to start asking themselves, “What am I getting in return for my dues?” We deserve much better. It is time to vote in members who understand how dire this situation has become. Because voting for the same ‘ol candidates is going to yield the same ‘ol results.”
Nicolaisen stresses that he is committed to fighting for the fair treatment and living wages of all SAG-AFTRA members, transparency in leadership, and a return to SAG-AFTRA prioritizing it’s most valuable resource--the members.
For more information Erik requests members sign up for his email list or message him directly firstname.lastname@example.org:
“I have made my living over the past 4 decades working in radio, film, TV and stage. I paid my dues as an actor starting at the bottom of the ladder doing background work to leads in Blockbuster films. Thanks to the opportunities and strong contracts SAG fought for it’s members I feel fortunate enough to be in a position to give back to the industry that has been more than good to me. Sadly, I don’t see the same opportunities for actors today to do just that and I would like to see that course reversed. It’s a big ship and I am aware it turns awfully slowly but there are thing I would like to see help the local Oregonian community to take advantage of the few opportunities there may be and hopefully help create new ones.I believe we have a beautiful and picturesque state and should be a filmmakers dream. I would like to help build a strong and healthy support system for future filmmakers.” - Erik Avari
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