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SAG delays strike authorization vote

National board to meet on Jan. 12 and 13

Facing growing internal dissent, leaders of the Screen Actors Guild have postponed SAG’s divisive strike authorization vote for two weeks.

SAG national exec director Doug Allen declared that SAG’s national board must meet first in order to present a united front before sending out strike ballots.

In a surprise announcement Monday night, Allen notified members that the vote — which had been set to go out on Jan. 2 and be tabulated on Jan. 23 — would be delayed until after an emergency meeting of the board on Jan. 12 and 13.

Allen said in the missive that he and SAG president Alan Rosenberg had agreed to delay the authorization vote — which requires a 75% approval from members who cast ballots — to “address the unfortunate division and restore consensus.”

“This division does not help our effort to get an agreement from the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers that our members will ratify,” Allen said. “This will provide us with more time to conduct member education and outreach on the referendum before the balloting.”

The delay comes with the anti-authorization effort gaining traction among SAG members with over 1,400 having publicly declared that they’ll vote against the measure. George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Matt Damon, Sally Field, Tom Hanks, Julianne Moore, Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon have signed on to the “vote no” effort, contending that a strike is poorly timed amid the economic downturn.

Allen said in his message that a number of national board members have expressed concern about the opposition.

“While almost 100 high profile members and 2524 total members have endorsed the strike authorization vote mandated by the national board, more than 100 high profile actors and 1373 actors have lent their names to the opposition campaign,” he said.

SAG leaders have insisted that the strike authorization is essential to give SAG enough clout to budge the congloms off their final offer, made June 30 as SAG’s contract expired. And they’ve repeatedly proclaimed that the AMPTP’s proposed deal falls short in new-media jurisdiction and residuals.

SAG’s national board voted in October to give its negotiating committee the power to seek a strike authorization should efforts by a federal mediator to re-launch negotiations fail. Two days of talks supervised by the mediator cratered on Nov. 22, leading to the announcement of the strike authorization vote.

SAG’s New York division leaders went public on Dec. 12 with their opposition to the strike authorization vote, demanding that it be called off and that an emergency board meeting be scheduled to replace the negotiating committee. Rosenberg and Allen were heavily criticized by members at a New York town hall meeting three days later for bungling negotiations.

Those supporting the authorization effort include Hal Holbrook, Martin Sheen, Holly Hunter, Mel Gibson, Rob Schneider and former SAG President Ed Asner.

Control of SAG’s national board shifted in September from the more assertive Membership First faction to a moderate coalition of New York and regional reps along with the Hollywood-based Unite for Strength faction. The negotiating committee remains under the control of Membership First.

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