On the matter of Ronnie Cunningham, Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees was a house divided. He was the business agent for the 5,700-member North Hollywood, Calif.-based local, which represents prop makers, decorators, model builders and other employees in film and television set design. But on March 1 of this year the board voted 16-0 to oust him. Members alleged that for roughly a decade Cunningham had committed embezzlement, extortion and other offenses. Yet he had his defenders. In the face of a possible protracted legal battle, the board decided to cut its losses.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Local 44 had paid Cunningham a $170,000 settlement. Not every union member is happy. “A lot of us are very upset about this,” said Charlotte Laughon. “The decision to pay him before members could make their own personal judgment about his conduct is insulting to the membership.” Still, the predominant sentiment appears favorable. “I have to say the way it’s been settled is the best for the local,” remarked trustee Jeannie Gunn. (UPI, 6/12/06; other sources).