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Doug Allen steps down from SAG

Move follows brutal battle over negotiations

Doug Allen, the lightning rod at the center of the Screen Actors Guild’s bitter polarization, has been fired as national exec director and chief negotiator.

Allen’s gig ended Monday afternoon; several hours earlier, the moderates had delivered “written assent” documents terminating him — two weeks after a 28-hour filibuster by Allen’s supporters thwarted his ouster.

“I am disappointed in the board’s decision, which was made by written assent, and I am proud of my record,” Allen said in an email to the board. “I wish Screen Actors Guild and its members success and I have been honored to serve them. I have particularly enjoyed leading the wonderful men and women on the SAG staff and serving with SAG’s national president Alan Rosenberg and national secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens.”

The moderates also replaced the negotiating committee — a sign that a SAG feature-primtetime deal may be close. Sally Field, who’s opposed Allen on several fronts for the past year, said she was relieved and hopeful.

“I’m sure it was a difficult decision to replace SAG’s negotiators, but if the other entertainment unions can make a deal their members can live with, SAG can too — and now I feel certain that will happen, quickly and productively,” Field said.

Ten board members, including SAG New York president Sam Freed, brought the documents into SAG’s Hollywood headquarters and met for an hour with SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and outside counsel Robert Bush. The attorneys told the group that the written assent passed legal muster and that Allen had been fired.

The documents also provided that former SAG general counsel David White was installed as interim executive director and senior SAG adviser John McGuire as chief negotiator.

The moderates, representing 53% of the board, replaced the feature-primetime negotiating committee with a task force. The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, which made its final offer to SAG on June 30 as the contract expired, had no comment Monday.

Though Allen retained strong support among the hardline Membership First faction, the moderates believe he bungled the negotiations, keeping SAG without a deal on its key contract for nearly seven months. His ouster had been viewed as inevitable since the Jan. 12-13 meeting, with only the timing in question.

The filibuster was the final straw for the moderates, who said in their statement to members on Monday, “This unprecedented level of obstruction has paralyzed the guild.”

Allen’s departure doesn’t mean the brutal internal battles within SAG will go away. Rosenberg, who’s continued to defend the filibuster, called the moderates “gutless, dishonest and immoral” and said they should be blamed for deleveraging SAG and leaving it with what he expects will be an unacceptable contract.

“They’ve sabotaged Doug and wreaked havoc without taking responsibility,” Rosenberg added. “This is the darkest day within my memory. It kills democracy at SAG.”

The moderates consist of New York and regional reps plus members of the 8-month-old Unite for Strength faction in Hollywood. Rosenberg blasted the moderate coalition, asserting many of them don’t work on the feature-TV contract.

“It’s disconcerting that many of them do not have a real stake in the outcome,” Rosenberg said.

That sort of insult has dominated the dialogue among SAG leaders over the past decade. Even after the moderates gained control of the board in September, Allen was widely perceived as being unwilling to soften his negotiating stance — even though major stars such as George Clooney and Tom Hanks were urging SAG to pull the plug on plans for a strike authorization.

The moderates stressed Monday that they had not wanted to oust Allen by going the written assent route but were left without an alternative due to the stalling tactics at the Jan. 12-13 meeting.

“In a meeting two weeks ago, a majority of the board sought to make the crucial changes now contained in the written assent but were derailed by president Alan Rosenberg and a minority of board members through endless parliamentary games and improper behavior,” they noted.

Allen has been in his dual slot as national exec director and chief negotiator for two years. He has a year to go on his contract, which pays about $500,000 annually, and will receive his full salary during that period.

The moderates said the “written assent” step is included in SAG’s constitution to allow a majority of the board to take action outside the boardroom if necessary.

“While extraordinary circumstances may require the use of written assent, we do not believe it is a desirable way to conduct guild business,” they added. “In this case, the unrelenting obstruction by a minority of board members has left us no alternative.”

The moderates did not address the issue of killing the twice-delayed strike authorization, which has become a divisive issue as more than 2,100 members declared publicly that they would oppose such a vote due to the souring economy. Allen and Rosenberg had insisted that such a vote — which would have needed more than 75% affirmation from those voting to go into effect — was crucial in order to force the companies to improve their final offer, particularly in new-media jurisdiction and residuals.

In the wake of the Jan. 12-13 meeting, Allen had offered a compromise that called for last-ditch negotiations with the AMPTP, followed by sending out the offer without a recommendation. Moderates ridiculed that strategy, saying they no longer trusted Allen.

It’s uncertain if the AMPTP will be willing to tweak its final offer when negotiations start. Insiders believe the congloms may be willing to close the deal by agreeing to SAG’s demands to retain force majeure protections and pay the claims made by actors as a result of being idled as shows went dark during the WGA strike.

Allen, the longtime No. 2 exec at the NFL Players Assn., was hired at SAG in October 2006 — a year after Membership First fired Greg Hessinger as national exec director when Rosenberg and Membership First came to power. He ran afoul of the moderates by penning a long article about AFTRA lowballing SAG in areas of shared jurisdiction and by attempting to reduce AFTRA’s presence on joint negotiating committees — leading to AFTRA splitting from SAG on the feature-primetime contract last year.

Allen’s ouster will place a focus on the upcoming SAG elections in September. Rosenberg said Monday he was uncertain whether he’d seek a third two-year term as president but predicted that the moderates are moving toward resuming attempts to merge SAG with AFTRA.

The moderates also indicated Monday several other changes in how they’ll operate, such as declaring that only White, McGuire, or their designee may communicate on behalf of SAG to other organizations, the general public or the press.

They also instructed SAG staff to develop and implement a fraud-proof security system to regulate the use of the voting remotes used during board meetings. A Membership First rep was discovered illegally using three remotes to cast votes during the Jan. 12-13 meeting.

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