Divided SAG board ends meeting without action


Screen Actors Guild chief contract negotiator Doug Allen has retained his job, at least for now, as hardliners blocked an attempt by moderates opposed to a strike vote to fire Allen. The 28-hour meeting in Los Angeles ended with no action. So, there’s no change in leadership, but also no date for conducting a membership vote on a strike authorization.

Hollywood attorney Jonathan Handel, who has been blogging throughout the SAG contract negotiations with the major studios on his Digital Media Law blog, reported at 3:10 pm (PT) that a source inside the closed door talks had told him that the hardliners had prevailed by successfully filibustering the moderates’ attempts to pass a resolution that would have removed Allen as Chief Negotiator, dissolved the Negotiating Committee and rescinded the Strike Authorization Vote. The meeting later ended and that outcome – actually a non-outcome – was confirmed.

In theory, the moderates, consisting of East Coast dissidents aligned with West Coasters opposed to holding a strike vote, have majority control of the board following recent elections. But Alan Rosenberg is still President of the union and closely allied with Allen.

After the meeting broke up, Rosenberg issued a statement: “At the end of the National Board plenary meeting this afternoon, a group of board members submitted a document to the Guild that purports to deal with the employment of the National Executive Director and the continuing approach to negotiations. After analyzing the document, Screen Actors Guild’s in-house and outside counsel have concluded that the document does not constitute a valid written assent, for several reasons, including a lack of sufficient signatures and the absence of any language on the document demonstrating the intent of the signers to grant their assent to the proposal. Guild National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator Doug Allen and the National Television and Theatrical Contract Negotiating Committee remain committed to advancing the cause of actors and our crucial contract negotiations.”

But as divided as the union was before the meeting, it appears to be even more torn internally after the leadership used legal maneuvering to deny the majority its vote. What happens next is anybody’s guess. The union followed Rosenberg’s statement with a note that “No mailing date has been set for the previously approved TV/Theatrical strike authorization referendum.” And, it added, “We have no further comment.”

Rosenberg has been staunchly opposed to accepting the final contract offer from the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). He claims that unless the union holds out now for strong terms regarding compensation for new media productions, members may never receive fair compensation for works created for the Internet and other non-traditional outlets.

AMPTP insists that it is not possible yet to know how new media will play out. The studios also oppose giving SAG better terms than those already negotiated with all other major Hollywood unions.

Rosenberg’s opponents within the union say it doesn’t make any sense to stage a strike in the current economy and want new negotiators to go back and cut a deal with AMPTP.