SAG shifts gears
Leaders want to send contract to membersIf at first you don't succeed, try something else. That would seem to be the thinking behind SAG leadership's latest strategic shift. National executive director Doug Allen has written to guild directors seeking a membership vote — but not on a strike authorization, a former goal that almost cost Allen his job this week, but rather on the latest film and TV contract offer.
Allen got little traction when he floated the contract-vote proposal during a recent executive session of the SAG board. Instead, he and SAG president Alan Rosenberg spent most of Monday and Tuesday fighting efforts by disgruntled board members to oust him as their chief negotiator in stalled contract talks with the AMPTP.
On Wednesday, Allen wrote to the entire board — even alternates — to push the contract-vote idea further. Opposition to the proposal comes largely from those who believe the guild should settle with the AMPTP on current terms but feel Allen and Rosenberg wouldn't conduct a fair vote on the proposed pact.
Rosenberg told THR on Thursday that he remains committed to conducting a strike-authorization vote if board members fail to embrace Allen's proposal to vote on contract terms.
"Technically, the strike authorization is still on the table," Rosenberg noted. "The board has approved that. If the board doesn't adopt the very good proposal that Doug has put forward, we'll go out with a strike authorization."
A guild faction unhappy about Allen's previous call for a January strike-authorization vote put forward a motion to remove the exec director as chief negotiator during the two-day meeting of the national board. But the motion never came to a vote, after Rosenberg led a filibuster action to thwart the ouster.
In Wednesday's letter to the national board, Allen pleaded with directors not to remove him without further hearing his perspective on negotiations.
"I welcome your review of my performance and respectfully request only that in the interest of fairness such review include the opportunity for me to discuss with the board any comments, questions or issues you wish to raise," he wrote.
"I have proposed that the strike-authorization referendum be suspended and that management's offer be put to the membership in a ratification vote. I also proposed that before that membership-ratification vote, we meet immediately with the AMPTP to determine to what extent, if any, they are willing to improve their last offer to maximize its chances for ratification."
As for whether he might try to sway the contract vote, Allen proposed that the management offer "be sent to the members with pro and con statements from national board members and that otherwise the guild would remain neutral."
For now, at least one high- profile critic appeared unswayed.
"It is irresponsible and cynical at best to suggest that the guild could send out a contract referendum to the members with a neutral recommendation," said Sam Freed, president of SAG's New York board and the guild's second national vp. "The guild, under the direction of Allen, has spent the last eight months and hundreds of thousands of dollars of members' money criticizing the contract in an effort to manipulate the membership."
Back Stage news editor Andrew Salomon in New York contributed to this report.