Guild to decide on vote, committee

SAG’s national board moved closer to tabling its strike authorization vote and removing national exec director Doug Allen as the guild’s lead negotiator after lengthy closed-door sessions on the first day of the board’s two-day emergency meeting.

Leaders of SAG’s moderate wing — which gained a narrow majority in the fall over the more aggressive Membership First faction — took several steps at Monday’s confab toward pulling the plug on the authorization vote, including an executive session to discuss Allen’s job. The national board meeting’s set to conclude this afternoon.

SAG had no official comment about the developments as of late afternoon Monday. But people close to the situation said that the board is also considering replacing SAG’s negotiating committee with a task force that more closely mirrors the makeup of the 71-member national board.

SAG’s negotiating committee, which has been in a stalemate with studios since spring over its primetime-feature master contract, remains dominated by Membership First. Monday’s meeting included a motion to change the guidelines for the composition of SAG task forces to remove requirements that such bodies reflect the proportion of earnings under a contract.

Despite gaining control of the board four months ago, the moderates have become frustrated over Allen continuing to insist on pushing for a strike authorization — despite growing opposition within SAG’s membership to the idea of threatening a strike amid the worsening national economy. The once-delayed authorization vote would have to receive 75% support among members casting ballots for the guild to strike.

Allen’s insisted that SAG needs the authorization in order to persuade the congloms to sweeten their six-month-old final offer — despite repeated assertions by the companies that they won’t alter the proposal.

If Allen is dismissed as chief negotiator, he might step down as national exec director. He was hired in October 2006 after two decades in the No. 2 slot at the NFL Players Assn. and has a year left on his contract at a salary of about $500,000.

The moderate members — mostly those repping New York and the regional branches — have also been perturbed over the requirement that they attend in person rather than holding the meeting using videoconferencing equipment and have accused Allen and SAG president Alan Rosenberg of trying to hold down attendance by those opposed to their policies.

About two dozen demonstrators rallied and leafleted outside SAG headquarters prior to the meeting, mostly on the side of supporting the authorization. The demonstrators included former SAG presidents Ed Asner and William Daniels.

Longtime SAG activist Tom Bower passed out leaflets of his message asserting that the congloms’ six-month-old proposal would lead to the elimination of residuals — an assertion strongly disputed by the AMPTP. “That’s been their plan all along, ever since they began negotiations with the writers in July 2007,” he added.

Neil Hassman, a manager with two dozen actor clients, attended the demonstration with a “No SAG Strike” sign. “SAG’s been unrealistic about trying to seek a better deal than the other unions and it’s having a devastating impact,” he said.

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