Guild deal already faces opposition

The Screen Actors Guild and the congloms will resume feature-primetime contract talks Feb. 17 — but with president Alan Rosenberg’s lawsuit threatening to derail any deal.

SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers made a bare-bones joint announcement Tuesday saying they had agreed to meet on Feb. 17 and 18 at the AMPTP offices in Sherman Oaks. “We will have no further comment about the meeting,” the orgs said.

Rosenberg’s attorney Eric George also notified the AMPTP on Tuesday that the SAG national board’s recent votes to fire exec director Doug Allen and eliminate the negotiating committee — for a second time — are not legally binding.

On Friday, George warned the AMPTP that any deal it reaches with SAG may be “null and void, without force of law and not binding on the artists represented by SAG.”

The AMPTP had no comment.

Rosenberg, Anne-Marie Johnson, Diane Ladd and Kent McCord sued SAG and 41 board members last week to overturn those decisions and have appealed a state court judge’s denial of their request of a temporary restraining order.

“Please be advised that no force and effect should be accorded to any of the items addressed and purportedly decided on Feb. 7 and 8 by various SAG national directors at a putative ‘special meeting,’” George wrote.

He asserted that the vote should not count because due to lawful notice wasn’t given; that Rosenberg and secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens weren’t able to address the issues “substantively”; and a “host” of procedural irregularities.

Rosenberg’s allies have already begun carping that any agreement from the talks won’t be acceptable. The Membership First faction, which lost its narrow national board majority last fall, said in a Tuesday message that the new task force replacing the negotiating committee won’t have the “experience, knowledge or determination” to reach a deal that will be ratified by guild members.

The declaration’s an indication that any ratification vote sent to SAG’s 120,000 members will face strong opposition.

SAG and the companies last met for two days in November under supervision of a federal mediator. Those talks cratered after SAG demanded an increase in DVD residuals, long a nonstarter for the AMPTP.

Allen was ousted as chief negotiator due to frustration among SAG’s moderate leaders over his handling of negotiations — such as alienating AFTRA to the point that the sister union ditched joint negotiations and cut its own deal in May. Allen was also perceived as being overly beholden to Membership First, even after the board majority shifted in favor of the moderates. Allen and Rosenberg campaigned actively against the AFTRA ratification, which was approved by a 62% margin.

SAG’s contract expired June 30 with the companies making a final offer. The move to fire Allen gained momentum after SAG failed to close a deal in November at the last round of talks.

“Membership First firmly believes that the June 30 final offer from the AMPTP is unacceptable,” the faction said. “We have not lost our resolve. The new SAG board majority wants to make a deal, no matter how disastrous it could be for the 120,000 members of this union.”

The Membership First missive also reiterated its list of objections to the final offer, including the lack of product-integration language, the removal of force majeure protections and no gains in DVD residuals.

“No one expects to get everything we need or want,” the message said. “But what SAG members need to demand of this new negotiating ‘task force’ led by John McGuire is that, at a minimum, they must hold firm on total jurisdiction in new media and residuals for all product made specifically for new media.”

The faction also declared that it’s “sensitive” to the fears and concerns within the entertainment community regarding the negotiations.

“Our actions are not arbitrary or selfish,” it said. “We are all facing challenging economic times. We are not immune to work slowdowns and unemployment. But we are not just fighting for today. We are fighting to protect every actor’s ability to make a middle-class living today and in the future.”

New York SAG president Sam Freed, who’s part of the task force, responded to the missive by asserting that Rosenberg and Johnson seem determined to cling to their “failed policy” that has failed to further the interests of the membership.

“It is a policy that forces our members to work without the protections of a contract and deprives them and the labor community of work opportunities,” Freed said. “Despite her irresponsible lawsuit against her own Guild and the will of the Board majority, negotiations will resume next week. The new task force will make its best effort to get the Guild out of the mess in which Membership First has put us.”

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