Legal threat halts SAG-AMPTP talks

Guild seeks to reinstate ousted national executive director

Like a horror movie with one false ending after another, the SAG story continues to twist and turn but refuses to bend toward resolution.

National president Alan Rosenberg and first vp Anne-Marie Johnson notified the guild Monday that they are seeking legal action, industry sources said, effectively halting the resumption of talks for a new TV/film contract between the guild and Hollywood producers that were to have begun this morning.

SAG said Monday in announcing the indefinite postponement of negotiations, "Screen Actors Guild today notified the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers that the guild had received a notice of intent to file a complaint (Tuesday)."

Rosenberg and Johnson's move further escalates a brutal internecine battle within the union, one that has seen a 28-hour, all-night national board meeting; the removal of the guild's national executive director and chief negotiator, Doug Allen; and the disbanding of its negotiating committee by written decree.

Rosenberg and Johnson's unspecified legal maneuver, a source said, seeks to reinstate Allen, who was replaced by interim NED David White and chief negotiator John McGuire. Board moderates attempted to remove Allen and replace the negotiating committee at the marathon board meeting last month, but Rosenberg and his MembershipFirst allies on the board effectively staged a filibuster, preventing it from being voted on.

Two weeks later, board moderates fired Allen by written assent, a document signed by a 52.5% majority of board members.

Representatives from SAG and the AMPTP were to meet Tuesday for the first time in more than two months to take yet another crack at cutting a deal for a new three-year TV/theatrical contract.

"Screen Actors Guild has advised us that it has a court proceeding that will conflict with our meeting this week, and for that reason both parties felt it made sense to reschedule the meeting to a later date," the AMPTP said Monday.

Reached by phone in the early evening, Rosenberg declined comment on the document.

The guild for the past seven months has been working under the terms of its previous contract, which expired June 30. On that date, the AMPTP delivered to SAG what it called its final offer.

Their impasse lasted until Nov. 20, when the sides met again in a failed two-day effort at federal mediation. SAG immediately announced that it was planning a strike-authorization vote, and the parties have not spoken officially since. Meanwhile, the guild bloodied itself internally over whether to go ahead with that vote.

A week ago, a coalition of anti-strike forces in the guild removed Allen as chief negotiator and national executive director and replaced him with White and McGuire.

Within two days, McGuire had reached out to the AMPTP and scheduled the new negotiation session for Tuesday at the AMPTP's Sherman Oaks headquarters. The sides had planned to meet Wednesday as well.

Andrew Salomon of Back Stage reported from New York; Jay A. Fernandez reported from Los Angeles.