SAG meet will test Rosenberg

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SAG president Alan Rosenberg will face a dual test of his leadership sway when the guild's national board meets this weekend with an agenda topped by two whoppers: the appointment of a new national executive director and a proposed dues increase.

It has been a year since Rosenberg, the 120,000-member guild's top elected officer, has had an executive partner of that stature following the termination of onetime CEO Greg Hessinger. A former AFTRA exec director, Hessinger was removed by the SAG board only six months into a four-year contract shortly after Rosenberg's election last fall.

But the vacancy in the guild's top staff position hasn't stopped the successful execution of a commercials contract extension and new basic-cable pacts, with SAG chief financial officer Peter Frank serving as interim exec director during a protracted search for permanent candidates and SAG deputy national executive director Pamm Fair also working closely with leadership.

Rosenberg declined to name his choice for the exec director job -- the CEO title will be retired -- until he can brief board members on his recommendation. But it's known the proposed new top exec comes from outside current SAG staff and was selected for recommendation to the board from among a handful of final candidates.

Meanwhile, the 69-member board also will be asked to shore up the new exec's operational kitty. Rosenberg, who criticized an unsuccessful proposal to raise dues in 2004, plans to endorse strongly a graduated increase to the current SAG dues structure.

"There are features of this proposal that some people might actually like," the SAG president said. "It's more egalitarian than our present dues structure."

Although SAG is in "good financial shape," important new initiatives including the proposed creation of an emerging technology department can't be funded through current membership revenue, he said.

The guild's last dues increase came in 1999. When a hike was proposed in 2004, "I didn't think we were seeing the services that justified it," Rosenberg said.

The recent creation of an organizing department within the guild and other moves amply demonstrate operational improvements since then. "If we don't get an increase of some kind, we can't fund new initiatives," he added.

Rosenberg acknowledged some grumbling over slow processing of residual payments.

"That's partly a manpower issue," he said in suggesting that a dues increase could help fund greater staffing of those operations. Rosenberg declined to discuss details of the proposed dues increase pending board review.

Any vote by the board to approve a dues increase would have to be ratified by membership, either late this year or in early 2007, and that's where the proposal was defeated the last time around. But winning the national board's backing on his recommendations regarding a new exec director and the dues proposal would show Rosenberg's ability to lead in the aftermath of some recent -- if hardly unusual -- internal bickering at the guild.

A recent move by SAG's Hollywood board to name longtime guild activist Kent McCord to succeed Anne-Marie Johnson as first national vp was widely interpreted as a rebuff of Rosenberg, who had backed her for re-election to the office (HR 10/5). Johnson had worked closely with Rosenberg in his first year as president, including an effort to reach out to New York and regional branch leadership that upset many on the Hollywood board.

Elsewhere on the national board's weekend agenda, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka will make a presentation Sunday about benefits of SAG's ongoing membership in the AFL-CIO, which costs the guild hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and occasionally rankles the guild's more fiscally oriented faction. There also is a scheduled discussion of whether to continue to help fund legal efforts aimed at thwarting Canadian film-production incentives.

The guild's regional branches board, representing membership outside of Hollywood and New York divisions, will meet Thursday and Friday in Los Angeles. Action items include the election of a third national vp, a position currently held by Steve Fried.
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