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SAG wields influence in strike strife

Guild likely to benefit from WGA, DGA deals

For those who like to worry, here’s something to ponder: The Writers Guild of America strike could simply be a warm-up for a Screen Actors Guild strike next summer.

SAG is emerging as the big X factor as the WGA strike moves into its second month. While the Directors Guild waits in the wings to start talks if the WGA negotiations collapse, SAG’s plan is less certain.

SAG is likely to benefit from the fact that both the DGA and the WGA will probably have deals in place by the time the actors’ contract expires on June 30. (Still, it’s uncertain whether a WGA or DGA agreement will come first: The WGA might just stay on strike for many more months.)

Alan Rosenberg, who is in his second term as SAG prexy, has indicated the guild won’t necessarily settle for the same terms in new media as the other guilds.

One labor veteran predicted SAG has leverage power, given its implied ability to close down the town if it goes on strike after its June 30 contract expiration.

“I’d say SAG’s in the catbird seat — as long as the WGA strike doesn’t last too long,” says a former guild insider. “I can’t see the town having much sympathy for a second strike if that happens.”

A second strike may be a worst-case scenario. But there have been clues that the underlying message to studios and nets is that SAG won’t take a moderate stance.

In showing solidarity with the writers, SAG has persuaded high-profile members out to the picket lines and up to the podiums for speeches — including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Edie Falco, Kristin Davis, Tina Fey, Gilbert Gottfried, Felicity Huffman, Lisa Kudrow, Sandra Oh, Tim Robbins and Ray Romano.

SAG topper Doug Allen, a veteran NFL Players Assn. exec, has said over and over that if SAG is not willing to strike, it’s engaged in “collective begging rather than collective bargaining.”

And SAG president Rosenberg has been a strong supporter of the WGA ever since he was elected in 2005. He’s also been focused on strengthening the guild’s ties to high-profile actors — being married to Marg Helgenberger doesn’t hurt.

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