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SAG downsize goes to a vote

Members push for slimmer Guild

HOLLYWOOD — Advocates of shrinking the Screen Actors Guild’s board from 107 to 62 and giving Hollywood a thin majority have run out of patience with SAG leaders and will take the issue directly to members.

Backers of the “governance proposal,” which has been stalled due mostly to staunch opposition from reps outside Hollywood, officially submitted the referendum petition to SAG staff Wednesday for review.

The board voted 52-50 in April to delay the plan indefinitely, then was unable to even conduct a vote after eight hours on July 30 with a slightly revised plan that had been approved the day before by the national executive committee.

SAG prexy William Daniels has set a special board meeting Aug. 16 to re-consider the plan, which would give Hollywood 32 of the 62 seats in line with its 54% share of membership. Backers will drop the referendum if the board approves the plan but they believe opponents will again maneuver to delay a vote or table the matter.

“We do not believe that the board will act responsibly on this issue,” said committee chief Gordon Drake, who attended the July 30 meeting as a replacement board member.

Report recommendation

The notion of shrinking the board size was one of dozens of recommendations contained in last year’s Towers Perrin report, a cost-benefit analysis that portrayed SAG as beset with factionalism and in need of major cost cutting. Hollywood-based members have been the major supporters of implementing Towers Perrin but have been thwarted by a combination of Gotham reps, members from the 23 regional branches and a few Hollywood reps.

The plan would force some of the branches to jointly hold board seats rather than each office being entitled to its own seat. Opponents have rallied their supporters by suggesting that approval of the plan will lead to the enactment of Towers Perrin’s recommendation to close most of the branches, an allegation denied by the Hollywood reps.

Organizers will have six months once the petition is cleared to gather 10,000 signatures — or 10% of members — to bring the proposal to a direct vote. The referendum committee, which has been prepped to take such a step for several months, believes it can obtain 15,000 signatures in 45 days.

The move would mean that signature gathering for the referendum would coincide with campaigning for SAG’s election, which will take place during the last three weeks of October.

“We have strong support among members for going ahead,” said Drake, who served as SAG’s national strike coordinator last year. He added that dissatisfaction among members has escalated in the wake of CEO designate John Cooke’s resignation last month in which Cooke cited factionalism within the boardroom.

SAG’s constitution calls for the board to set a referendum election once the required number of signatures have been certified as valid so it is possible that members could vote on the issue at the same time that the elections are taking place.

If the referendum passes, it calls for SAG’s board to hold an interim special election among three divisions of the board — Hollywood, New York and Regional — within 30 days to shrink its size from 107 to 60 with the president and treasurer exempt. It also provides that all 60 seats will be up for election in the fall 2002 election.

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