SAG talks to start Tuesday

Threat of strike still alive at Guild

Despite the firing of Doug Allen and Tuesday’s resumption of contract talks with the congloms, the Screen Actors Guild’s threatened strike remains alive — at least on SAG’s website, which still sports a list of 6,000 members who support a strike authorization.

As of early Wednesday, SAG and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers had not announced officially when they would meet to hammer out a deal. But later in the day, they agreed on Tuesday and Wednesday dates.

The moderate majority of SAG’s national board booted Allen out Monday as national exec director and chief negotiator, replacing him with David White as interim exec director and John McGuire as chief negotiator. Allen’s ousting had been widely anticipated ever since his supporters prevented his firing by staging an extraordinary 28-hour filibuster at the Jan. 12-13 emergency board meeting.

However, the changes in SAG’s direction have not been fully acknowledged on the guild’s website, which was still running a video Wednesday of Allen explaining why SAG needs a yes vote on the authorization.

“I’m Doug Allen, SAG’s national executive director and your chief negotiator,” it begins. “You may have a lot of questions about the upcoming strike authorization referendum and you’ve probably given a lot of thought as to how you’re voting on upcoming ballot.”

The site also still features pro-authorization videos by Hal Holbrook, Martin Sheen and Alicia Witt; president Alan Rosenberg; and board members Justine Bateman, Elliott Gould, Frances Fisher and Diane Ladd.

In response, SAG said Wednesday, “SAG’s interim national executive director and staff are working, thoughtfully and deliberately, to expand SAG’s many outreach efforts. Members can expect to see the first enhancements within days.”

Technically, the strike authorization isn’t dead since the moderate coalition opted not to kill it as part of the “written assent” measure that fired Allen, tapped White and McGuire and replaced the negotiating committee with a task force. But it’s becoming a very longshot scenario.

A week ago, SAG denied a wire service report that its leaders had formally given up on the twice-delayed authorization vote, insisting that the operative action by the national board remained an Oct. 19 vote to send out the referendum if mediation failed. But the majority of the board grew increasingly convinced — after mediation went nowhere — that the souring economy had ruined the viability of a strike vote and that Allen needed to be replaced after failing to reach a deal.

Despite White’s call Tuesday for an end to the internal battling, both sides have continued taking potshots at each other after Rosenberg accused the moderates of sabotaging Allen. Chicago SAG president Todd Hissong blasted back at Rosenberg for his characterizations.

“You contend that had we all simply abrogated our personal responsibilities to our members, shut up and got back on the bus, everything would have worked out just fine,” Hissong said. “I cannot imagine a more cynical and delusional statement coming from a national ‘leader.’ I was not elected to rubberstamp agendas that adversely affect my members’ well-being.”

Meanwhile, negotiating committee member Scott Wilson began picketing outside SAG headquarters on Wednesday with a “Banana Republic of SAG” sign over the new provision in SAG rules that specify that only White and McGuire may speak on behalf of the guild — meaning that Rosenberg can speak only on his own behalf. Wilson also blasted what he called “union-buster” high-profile actors such as Matt Damon and Tom Hanks for coming out against the authorization.

“I’ve had enough of high-profile actor-producers not respecting us,” said Wilson, whose credits include “In Cold Blood,” “The Last Samurai” and “Junebug.”

Wilson, who won the Ralph Morgan award for service to the guild last year, isn’t on the task force that will handle the negotiations and said he’s resigned from the other SAG committees in order to be able to continue speaking out without reprisal.

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