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Hosokawa v. Guild-American

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 7, 2017

MIDORI HOSOKAWA, Plaintiff,
v.
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD-AMERICAN, FEDERATION OF TELEVISION AND RADIO, ARTISTS, et ano., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          WILLIAM H. PAULEY III, District Judge.

         Plaintiff pro se Midori Hosokawa brings this action against defendants Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and its New York Local (collectively, “SAG-AFTRA” or the “Union”), alleging breaches of SAF-AFTRA's duty of fair representation and a breach of its constitution. SAG-AFTRA moves to dismiss the First Amended Complaint (“Compl.”). SAG-AFTRA's motion to dismiss is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The material facts, gleaned from the First Amended Complaint and Hosokawa's supplemental submissions, are accepted as true for purposes of this motion.

         Hosokawa is an actor and member in good standing of SAG-AFTRA, a labor organization that represents actors and other media professionals. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 10, 15.) In July 2013, she appeared in a Verizon “Droid” television commercial. (Compl. ¶ 19.) Two versions of the commercial aired: a thirty-second version (“First Commercial”) and a four-minute version (“Second Commercial”). (Compl. ¶¶ 42, 48, 54.) The signatory producer of the Droid commercial paid her as a “background” performer. (Compl. ¶ 43.) However, Hosokawa believes that SAG-AFTRA's collective bargaining agreement entitled her to be compensated as a “principal” performer. A principal performer receives enhanced compensation. (See Compl. ¶¶ 21-22.)

         Despite the fact that a production assistant told Hosokawa that she was “virtually certain to be deemed a ‘principal, '” the signatory producer determined that she was merely a “background” performer and paid her commensurately. (Compl. ¶¶ 42-43.) On August 9, 2013, Hosokawa submitted a inquiry form with SAG-AFTRA, seeking to have the Union file a claim with the signatory producer to “upgrade” her role to a “principal” performer on the 30-second version of the Droid commercial. (Compl. ¶ 44.) Approximately three weeks later, SAG-AFTRA denied her request and closed the case. (Compl. ¶ 51.) Thereafter, Hosokawa contacted SAG-AFTRA repeatedly seeking further clarification and attempting to persuade them to pursue an upgrade on her behalf. (See Compl. ¶¶ 52-53.)

         In September 2013, Hosokawa learned of the Second Commercial. (Compl. ¶ 54.) She emailed SAG-AFTRA with information about the Second Commercial and a link to YouTube where it could be viewed. (Compl. ¶¶ 54, 55(A); Hosokawa Mem., ECF No. 71, Ex. 4.) A SAG-AFTRA representative responded, stating:

You have been advised, on several occasions both in writing and verbally, that this claim is closed and that no further discussion is warranted.
This claim remains closed as you do not meet the criteria for upgrade. Your constant barrage of emails and phone calls are disruptive. If you do not cease from contacting [a different representative] and the rest of the staff in the Commercials Department, I will have no choice but to refer this issue to Legal[, which] . . . means that your conduct as a member of this union will be reviewed and a determination made about your future contact with this organization.

         (Hosokawa Mem., ECF No. 71, Ex. 4.)

         Undeterred, in late September 2013, Hosokawa contacted a representative of the commercial's signatory producer who agreed with her that the two Verizon Droid commercials were separate and that the Union should assist her. (Compl. ¶ 56.) In October 2013, SAG-AFTRA reiterated to Hosokawa by letter that her claim was closed. (Compl. ¶ 57; Hosokawa Mem., ECF No. 71, Ex. 9.) SAG-AFTRA's letter stated:

It is my understanding that you have been informed both verbally and in writing that you do not have a valid or meritorious claim for the above-referenced Verizon Wireless advertisement. This decision was made by the Commercials Department after carefully researching the matter. Subsequent to being informed of this decision, you have continued to relentlessly and repeatedly call and email the Commercials Department staff.
Your repeated calls and emails require staff to spend a disproportionate amount of time engaged in unproductive conversations with one member, and our resources are therefore denied to other members. In addition, your manner and attitude at times are extremely discourteous and rude, and there is never a place for that type of behavior between members and staff.
If you have new matters to bring to our attention, we look forward to working with you to resolve them. However, we will no longer respond to any inquiries ...

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