SAG infighting delays contract talks


The new negotiating team for the Screen Actors Guild won’t be meeting with the Hollywood studios this week after all. The contract talks were called off after SAG President Alan Rosenberg said he was suing his own union in an attempt to reverse the action by the board of directors majority to fire the former chief negotiator. But Rosenberg failed yesterday in an attempt to get an LA Superior Court Judge to issue an injunction blocking any contract talks.

In any case, SAG and AMPTP say the renewed contract talks which had been planned for Tuesday and Wednesday have been put on hold.

Both SAG and AMPTP, which negotiates for the studios, posted web notices that legal action had caused them to postpone the contract talks. SAG later posted an update about the ccourt proceedings.

“After hearing from attorneys for plaintiffs Alan Rosenberg, Anne-Marie Johnson, Diane Ladd, and Kent McCord, as well as SAG counsel, the court held that the notice and application for the injunction, as well as the underlying complaint, were procedurally defective and refused to issue the injunction at this time. Plaintiffs’ counsel stated in court that they intend to amend their documents and notice a new hearing for Thursday morning, February 5, 2009,” the union’s statement said. The SAG website is under the control of the board majority and Rosenberg, despite still being president, is barred from speaking for the union.

It had appeared that the battle for control of SAG had been settled when Doug Allen accepted the decision of the board to fire him as National Executive Director and chief negotiator for the union. But while Rosenberg did not put up a fight then, as had been expected, he was apparently regrouping. So, on Monday he informed SAG that he would be filing suit on Tuesday.

“The development marks a stunning turn in a SAG negotiating cycle that has moved so far beyond bizarre in the last 12 months that words seem inadequate,” said attorney Jonathan Handel in his Digital Media Law blog.

“The suit, in which Guild 1st VP Anne-Marie Johnson is also reportedly a plaintiff, seeks a court order blocking SAG from implementing the written assent document that (a) fired the previous National Executive Director (Doug Allen), (b) split his job in two and appointed replacements (David White and John McGuire), (c) dissolved the Guild’s negotiating committee and replaced it with a task force, and (d) barred Rosenberg and others from speaking on behalf of the Guild,” Handel explained. “Thus, if granted, the order would (among other things) apparently reinstate Allen and the previous negotiating team.”

Handel links to another blog by law professor Steve Diamond, who doubts that the Rosenburg lawsuit will be successful. Nonetheless, he expects it to delay the resumption of contract negotiations by a week or two.

RBR/TVBR observation: Absolutely amazing. This has to be the most self-destructive union ever to exist.