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New York yells 'cut' on SAG strike vote

December 12, 2008 |  5:14 pm

The campaign to oppose a strike authorization by members of the Screen Actors Guild got a boost today when members of the the New York Division Board of Directors issued a statement calling for their union to halt the upcoming referendum.

The New York board, which has 14 representatives on SAG's 71-member national board who have often clashed with the guild's leadership, demanded that the national board hold an emergency meeting to appoint a new negotiating task force to replace the current negotiating committee in order to jump- start contract talks with the studios that have stalled for months.

In October, the New York board members supported plans for a strike authorization if mediation failed. But they contend SAG leaders gave short shrift to mediation and that the worsening economy has now made that course of action unwise.

In its statement, the New York board said: "Negotiations failed. Then something else failed, too. The American economy. With that collapse, everything has changed. Our members and our industry are struggling through the worst economic crisis in memory. While issuing a strike authorization may have been a sensible strategy in October, we believe it is irresponsible to do so now."

Regional branches around the country, which often align with their counterparts in New York, were expected to issue similar statements opposing the strike authorization vote, guild insiders said.

The opposition underscores how deeply divided SAG is, making it tougher for union leaders to present a united front as they wage an "education campaign" to muster support for the strike authorization. Ballots will be sent out Jan. 2 and tabulated on Jan. 23, the day before the national board is scheduled to meet. A strike authorization requires 75% approval from voting members, with the board having ultimate say over whether a walkout would occur.

UPDATE: SAG President Alan Rosenberg said in a statement he was "shocked and troubled" by the New York Board's demand to cancel the strike authorization vote, noting the New York board previously supported the idea in October. But he agreed to their demand to schedule an emegency national board meeting, the purpose of which would be to discuss "the ramifications of this extraordinarily destructive and subversive action."

-- Richard Verrier