SAG proceeds with status quo

Doug Allen keeps job after two-day session

In the last two days, the Screen Actors Guild has been full of sound and fury, signifying … the status quo.

After a filibuster-filled 30-hour board meeting Monday and Tuesday that was meant to bring some resolution to the raging divisions within the guild, nothing has changed: Though moderates have a majority on the SAG board, the stall tactics prevented a vote on a measure that would have ousted Doug Allen as chief negotiator, canceled the strike authorization vote and replaced the negotiating committee.

The outcome is 180 degrees from info leaked Monday evening by SAG board members — notably Seymour Cassel — and printed in half a dozen major news outlets, including Daily Variety. It’s not clear whether the leak was misinformation or a mistake by Cassel, but the conflict underlines the disarray and the warring factions within the guild.

And the battle’s probably not over. SAG noted after the meeting that no date’s been set for sending out the referendum ballots and then added it would not comment further.

The reluctance to specify a date for mailing out ballots may stem from reaction to a move by moderates — after the marathon session ended — to have their motion go into effect via a constitutional provision allowing for measures to be approved outside a board meeting as long as a majority of the board agrees in writing.

Alan Rosenberg said in a news release that SAG lawyers had determined the motion lacked the proper number of signatures along with the absence of language “demonstrating the intent of the signers to grant their assent to the proposal.” The moderate wing could, however, round up another batch of signatures with documentation that will pass legal muster with SAG attorneys.

Rosenberg also said that Allen and the negotiating committee “remain committed to advancing the cause of actors and our crucial contract negotiations.”

The bigger question is not what happened during the past two days but what happens in the coming month — including Allen’s role, the strength of Rosenberg and his administration and the outcome of the strike authorization vote. Underlying all these issues is the question of SAG’s future now that it’s in its seventh month without a feature-primetime master contract.

SAG may have difficulty achieving the required 75% endorsement from those voting in the authorization referendum, given the level of opposition to a possible strike that forced the two-day emergency board meeting. The vote-no petition has more than 2,000 names at the NoSAGstrike site while SAG’s vote-yes petition has more than 4,000 names.

And Allen’s status as the guild’s top paid exec remains shaky after nearly being fired at the meeting.

SAG’s moderate wing — which gained a narrow majority over the hardline Membership First faction last fall — had the votes to pass its three-part resolution but it could not muster the required two-thirds margin to cut off debate and force a vote.

The meeting devolved into shouting matches on a number of occasions. The moderate board members, many from out of town and needing to catch Tuesday afternoon flights, became increasingly frustrated due to an array of parliamentary manuevers and stall tactics by Rosenberg and Membership First supporters such as proposing and then debating competing resolutions.

The moderates were infuriated that they were prevented from taking a vote on the resolution after being required by Allen to attend the emergency meeting in person rather than using videoconferencing equipment. That anger boiled over after a Membership First member was found with three voting devices in her lap, raising subsequent questions as to whether other votes during the meeting had been compromised.

The moderates — a coalition of members from New York, the regional branches and the Hollywood-based Unite for Strength — had contended that its resolution could restart long-stalled negotiations between SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Allen, who has alienated most board members outside of Hollywood, could have been replaced by SAG senior adviser John McGuire or former guild execs Sallie Weaver or David White.

The resolution would have put negotiations on a fast track. It called for a new interim chief negotiator and a “work group” that would replace the negotiating committee to bargain the best terms and conditions attainable with the AMPTP, then report the results to the national board at a videoconference meeting on Feb. 8.

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