Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg struck out Tuesday in his quixotic effort to reinstate Doug Allen as guild topper due to procedural errors with his legal filing, but his attorneys promised they’ll refile shortly and try again.
On a day that had been scheduled to mark the restart of SAG’s negotiations with the congloms, SAG’s future wound up instead in the hands of L.A. Superior Court Judge James Chalfant.
The judge denied Rosenberg’s application Tuesday for a temporary restraining order that would have invalidated last week’s moves by the guild’s national board to fire Allen and replace the guild’s feature-primetime negotiating committee. Sonia Lee, an attorney for Rosenberg, told Chalfant that the motion for a temporary restraining order would be amended for a hearing Thursday morning.
Rosenberg, along with first VP Anne-Marie Johnson and board members Diane Ladd and Kent McCord, had filed suit earlier in the day against SAG and the 41 members of the national board who fired Allen, alleging that the actions constituted a breach of fiduciary duties and violated the state’s corporate code. Because of the legal moves, SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had agreed Monday to postpone the first negotiating session since November.
“This action seeks judicial intervention to restore to SAG its democratically elected leadership and to immediately enjoin those individuals claiming to hold SAG leadership positions from taking any actions on SAG’s behalf,” the suit said. “Defendants’ wrongful conduct is ongoing and therefore presents a continuing threat of irreparable harm to plaintiffs.”
The moderates filled Allen’s posts a week ago with David White as interim national exec director and senior adviser John McGuire as chief negotiator.
New York SAG president Sam Freed, who had come out to Los Angeles for the Tuesday negotiations and was in court, noted that the temporary restraining order had been denied because of a “sloppy” application.
“They are so desperate to hold onto their power that they are willing to burn down their own house,” Freed said. “The elected majority is being ignored, and our members are still working without a contract. There can be no greater display of their inability to lead this union.”
Freed also called the quartet of plaintiffs “selfish” for ignoring the majority vote of the national board. None of the plaintiffs attended the hearing.
Lee noted after the 15-minute hearing that lawyers for SAG had relied solely on “technical problems” in trying to kill the motion. She also said the lawsuit will be amended and refiled today.
Daniel Alberstone and Roland Tellis, acting as outside attorneys for SAG, contended during the hearing that the motion should be tossed out because of the lack of specifics in the causes of action and the fact that the 41 defendants had not received any notice of the legal action. They also noted that several defendants were misnamed in the complaint.
It’s understood that SAG is not covering any of the legal costs for Rosenberg’s legal action.
Allen was fired Jan. 26 by “written assent” of the board’s moderate majority after that majority was blocked from voting two weeks earlier in a 28-hour filibuster led by Rosenberg.
The lawsuit said that the moderates had violated the law by failing to circulate the assent to all board members and to provide advance notice. The suit also said the assent needs to be approved by two-thirds of the board and that California corporate law allows such action only if it’s unanimous.
Entertainment industry attorney Ivy Kagan Bierman of Loeb and Loeb told Daily Variety that she doubts a court will issue an order due to the difficulty of proving “irreparable harm” when the union has already operated for seven months under an expired deal, with the AMPTP asserting that SAG members have lost out on $50 million of pay gains because the guild spurned the studios’ final offer.
“SAG has already created irreparable harm since they probably won’t receive any retroactivity,” she added.
Bierman also said the plaintiffs are “disingenuous” in their claim that the assent deprived board members of the opportunity to vote after they had filibustered to prevent a vote two weeks earlier.
The moderate coalition issued a statement blasting Rosenberg for undoing Tuesday’s negotiating session with the AMPTP.
“As SAG national board members and as rank & file union members, we are stunned that any elected union official would take steps to halt contract negotiations of any kind,” it said. “Such a brazen attack by nationally elected union leaders on the very foundation of collective bargaining – that of employers and workers meeting together to arrive at an agreement acceptable to both – is unprecedented in the history of the American Labor Movement.”
On Tuesday evening, White sent a message to SAG members recapping the court proceedings and pledging that the guild will present a “vigorous” defense against the lawsuit.
“The Guild understands the importance of concluding negotiations and securing a fair contract for SAG members and looks forward to re-engaging with the AMPTP as soon as possible,” White added.