SAG taps NFL players veteran

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During a crammed, weekendlong board meeting, SAG tapped NFL Players Assn. assistant executive director Doug Allen as the guild's national executive director and approved its first dues increase since 1999.

Allen, who has been with the NFLPA for almost 20 years, also will serve as SAG's chief negotiator. He will relocate from Washington, D.C.,  to Los Angeles and assume his new duties Jan. 8.

Signed to a three-year contract on undisclosed terms, Allen was approved unanimously by the SAG national board Saturday. The guild's interim national director, Peter Frank, will resume his previous role as chief financial officer while also taking on the title of chief administrative officer.

The move effectively splits off some internal administrative functions once the responsibility of a guild CEO. But the chief executive title was retired during the candidate search and the title of national executive director was reinstated.

The candidate search took most of the year, after the firing in the fall of Allen predecessor Greg Hessinger. SAG president Alan Rosenberg said he was "thrilled and gratified" that the board had confirmed "our No. 1 choice" for the job.

"(Allen's) tenure with the NFLPA and its professional membership provides the unique perspective that we have been searching for over the last year," Rosenberg said. "Allen is the perfect executive to lead us into our 2008 negotiations from a position of strength and knowledge and the right person to continue the unification so vital to our union."

Unifying geographical factions of the guild has been a priority for Rosenberg in his first year in office, but the selection of Allen for national executive director also drew accolades from the top staff exec of AFTRA, the other union representing performers. AFTRA's proposed merger with SAG -- which Rosenberg continues to oppose -- split SAG membership in a rancorous debate a couple of years ago.

"On behalf of AFTRA national president John Connolly, the national board of directors and our entire membership, I congratulate Doug Allen," AFTRA national exec director Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said. "AFTRA and SAG have a long history of working together. We look forward to collaborating with Mr. Allen and our sister union to protect and improve union standards for all working performers."

The SAG dues increase -- similar to one Rosenberg opposed in 2004 but helped push through in a Sunday vote -- will take effect only if membership approves the proposal in a referendum. The board approved the increase by what was described as a 98% approval, and decided to send out ballots to membership in January.

If accepted, base dues for SAG membership would increase to $116 per year from $100, and the guild's initiation fee would rise to $2,211 from $1,474.

Actors earning less than $200,000 annually would continue to pay 1.85% of earnings, and those making $200,001 to $500,000 would continue to pay 0.5% of earnings above $200,000. Actors earning between $500,001 to $1 million would now pay 0.25% on that level of earnings. The guild would raise its earnings cap on income subject to dues to $1 million, from the current $500,000.

Officials said the dues increase was necessary to facilitate staff hiring in certain areas, to enhance internal computer systems and Web site capabilities and to build reserves.

"Our biggest responsibility as caretakers of this great union is making sure it remains healthy," Rosenberg and secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens said in a joint statement. "This increase will put us in the best possible position heading into the TV/theatrical and commercials contract negotiations of 2008 by financing research and building up reserves, thrusting the guild into a prosperous new era."

In other business Sunday, the SAG national board voted to allocate $50,000 toward legal efforts aimed at fighting Canadian production incentives. And a majority of the board voted to approve the guild's joining an industry coordinating committee of the AFL-CIO to collaborate on organizing strategy and other issues.

SAG's regional branches board, representing members outside of the guild's Hollywood and New York divisions, met Friday and re-elected Steve Fried as the guild's third national vp.
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