Labour lawyer Marie Kelly named executive director of ACTRA National

Marie Kelly has been named the new executive director and chief negotiator for ACTRA National.

Labour lawyer Marie Kelly has been tapped to helm ACTRA, the national union representing Canadian performers working in the English-language recorded media sector, as executive director and chief negotiator.

Kelly is a veteran lawyer with a history of representing workers’ rights. She arrives at ACTRA after six years with the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) where she most recently held the role of CEO/CAO. Prior to ONA, she worked for the United Steelworkers where, over the course of 22 years, she served as executive director, legal counsel and became the first woman in North America to be appointed to the position of assistant director.

Kelly’s appointment is effective immediately. Retiring executive director Stephen Waddell will stay on with the union in an advisory role until fall 2020.

Stephen Waddell

“For almost 40 years, Stephen Waddell has been a champion for Canadian performers and has led us in the creation of some of the most ground-breaking collective agreements not just in our industry but in the world,” said David Sparrow, ACTRA National President. “For always demanding fair compensation and credit for the work of our members and for always encouraging us to stand our ground and stick together, we thank Stephen for his devotion to our union.” 

Waddell began his career as a labour activist in 1970 as a Toronto-based staff representative for the International Woodworkers of America. In 1972, he left the IWA to work as assistant general secretary of ACTRA where he remained until 1984 when he was recruited by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and moved to Los Angeles where he became SAG’s Assistant Hollywood Executive Director. Leaving SAG in 1988 to return to Canada, Waddell became a talent agent at a Toronto-based agency, representing performers, writers and directors. In 1992, he returned to ACTRA as National Executive Director where he’s remained until now as chief negotiator and chief of staff of the national performers’ union.

During his tenure, he led ACTRA members through the first strike in union history in 2007, which led to the first collective bargaining agreement internationally to contain provisions for Digital Media production and use. 

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