It’s happened again.
SAG leaders, in the latest twist in the guild’s extraordinary drama, have set the stage for resuming contract talks with the majors by again firing topper Doug Allen and booting out the feature-primetime negotiating committee in favor of a task force.
The moderate majority of the national board of the Screen Actors Guild approved Sunday — for the second time in as many weeks — a resolution to take those actions, which are also aimed at removing the basis for president Alan Rosenberg’s recent lawsuit against SAG and the 41 members who had supported the measure two weeks ago.
Sunday’s move is likely to re-launch feature-primetime negotiations as early as Feb. 17 after Rosenberg’s stunning legal challenge put those talks on hold last week. SAG’s feature-primetime contract expired June 30 and the last set of negotiations took place in November.
“We’re thankful that the board has taken this positive step and extremely pleased to see even more board members get behind it,” said Ned Vaughn, a spokesman for the Unite For Strength faction. “Now we can focus on the work our members care about.”
Sunday’s vote generated support from 59% of board members voting — up from the 53% who supported the resolution two weeks ago via a “written assent.” Keith Carradine, elected in the fall as part of Rosenberg’s Membership First slate, defected Sunday and supported the resolution.
Rosenberg chaired Sunday’s contentious five-hour meeting. Because of the internal battling, the resolution was the only agenda item that came to a vote.
The legal battle was triggered when Rosenberg led a 28-hour filibuster to prevent a vote on the same resolution on Jan. 12-13, prompting the 41 moderate board members to use a “written assent” procedure to approve the measure on Jan. 26.
Rosenberg and three other board members then filed suit Tuesday to overturn the “written assent” on grounds that it was illegal under state corporate laws and violated SAG’s constitution. Rosenberg was turned down twice last week in state court in efforts to obtain a temporary restraining order with Judge James Chalfant asserting that the suit was unlikely to succeed.
Feb. 17-18 has emerged as the earliest available dates for resuming negotiations. Spokesmen for SAG and the AMPTP have said that nothing definite had been set.
SAG’s negotiating committee contained a majority of Membership First members. The resolution named a 10-member task force to talk with the congloms and report back to the national board along with installing senior adviser John McGuire to replace Allen as chief negotiator.
The resolution also installed former SAG general counsel David White as the interim national exec director in the place of Allen. White issued a plea for unity on Jan. 27, his first day of work at SAG, but it doesn’t seem have stopped the infighting.
Membership First — which has long contended that the AMPTP’s seven-month-old final offer is unacceptable — has labeled Allen’s ouster a “takeover” and complained that the moderate majority won’t properly represent the interests of Hollywood members at the bargaining table. The faction had been in power since the 2005 elections, when Rosenberg won the presidency, but lost its margin last fall when Unite For Strength gained five national seats and 15 alternate slots.
Rosenberg has been particularly bitter, accusing the moderates of sabotaging the negotiations. The moderates have contended that Allen was beholden to Membership First and was strategically incompetent in leaving SAG with no deal after seven months amid diminishing leverage as the AMPTP made half a dozen deals last year with Hollywood unions.
SAG last met with the AMPTP in two days of talks supervised by a federal mediator but those talks cratered on Nov. 20 after the guild demanded a hike in DVD residuals — long a nonstarter for the congloms. That failure led to the guild announcing it was sending out a strike authorization, a move that split the board and ultimately led to Allen’s ouster.
In other developments, a below-the-line organization dubbing itself “Back to Work” has scheduled a 1 p.m. rally for Monday at SAG’s Hollywood headquarters to urge the guild to re-launch negotiations.
The national boards of SAG and AFTRA met jointly on Saturday to approve the bargaining proposal for contract talks with the ad industry, starting on Feb. 23. The two unions have reconciled after AFTRA split up its long-time negotiating partnership with SAG nearly a year ago following bitter battles over jurisdiction and then negotiated its own primetime deal in the late spring.