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September 08, 2010

SAG Leader Ken Orsatti Passes

Orsatti worked for the Guild for almost 40 years and oversaw many significant changes.

The Screen Actors Guild mourns the loss of former SAG National Executive Director Ken Orsatti, who passed away August 31, 2010, at the age of 78 of pulmonary disease at West Hills Hospital in West Hills, Calif. Orsatti served as national executive director from 1981 through the end of 2000. During his tenure as NED, Orsatti also served as the Guild’s chief negotiator, a period that saw dramatic expansion of the union’s contracts and record setting earnings for its members. He was a SAG employee since 1961.

Orsatti served as a trustee of the SAG-Producers Pension & Health Plans for more than 35 years, and proudly served as a vice president of the International Federation of Actors (FIA). He successfully led a campaign to organize the advertising industry in the Guild’s Branches and helped negotiate numerous local and regional contracts that created work opportunities for thousands of members.

He helped found the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and served on its board while he worked at SAG and after his retirement. He served on the Industry Advancement and Cooperative Fund (IACF) and as an officer of the California AFL-CIO.

“Ken served this union with loyalty and devotion for nearly 40 years and touched many people in the entertainment industry labor scene,” said SAG President Ken Howard. “He will long be remembered for wholeheartedly working to protect the rights of our members.”

“He was not only respected throughout the industry but it is fair to say that he was cherished by many on both sides of the bargaining table,” said SAG Senior Advisor John McGuire. “Staff members across the country were especially fond of him but so were many union leaders, especially in his home state of California. Ken was gentle and kind, true to his friends, a dedicated and loving family man, and a lover of life. He leaves behind an awe-inspiring legacy of caring, leadership and friendship to inspire us all.”

Orsatti began his career at SAG as a theatrical business representative in Hollywood. In 1966, he was named SAG’s Southwest regional director. Orsatti was then promoted to the position of Hollywood executive director and assistant national executive director. He served in those capacities until being named the Guild’s national executive director in 1981. As SAG’s chief negotiator, he negotiated approximately 20 major Guild contracts.

In telling the SAG National Board of his retirement in October 2000, Orsatti said, “It’s not easy to be leaving, but I’m leaving you as the strongest performers’ union in the world. I’m very proud of having been part of that achievement.” In 2001, Orsatti was presented with the prestigious Ralph Morgan Award, the highest service award presented by the SAG Hollywood Division. That same year, the SAG Foundation established the Ken Orsatti Scholarship for Guild employees.

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