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SAG faction takes fresh shot at Allen

January 19, 2009 |  1:04 pm

The board majority of the Screen Actors Guild today stepped up its efforts to oust the union's executive director, making its case directly to members.   

In an e-mail statement to SAG members, the board's dominant coalition said it no longer had confidence in the leadership of Doug Allen, citing his "failed strategy" for securing a new contract for actors. SAG members have been without a contract for almost seven months.

The statement further accused Allen and SAG President Alan Rosenberg of thwarting the will of the board majority last week, when it was blocked from voting on a resolution to fire Allen and replace the union's negotiating committee.

"We firmly believe that SAG needs a change of course and a new captain,'' the board directors said. "Mr. Allen has held fast to a failed strategy for over half a year, even as members have lost nearly $50 million from working under an expired contract.... With a new direction, we can turn this around and put the Screen Actors Guild back on the right track."

The statement came in a response to a letter Allen wrote last week in which he proposed postponing a strike authorization vote. Instead, he proposed asking members to vote on whether they would accept the studios' final offer without a recommendation from the board.

But the recommendation was roundly dismissed by dissident directors as disingenuous, given that SAG had already spent more than $100,000 discrediting the studios' offer as unacceptable.

Allen has strongly pushed for the strike vote, saying it would give him leverage in negotiations. But his aggressive pursuit of the referendum sparked a backlash among members who felt the tactic was ill-timed, given the hardships facing members amid a deep recession.

If Allen doesn't resign, his hand may be forced. Moderate directors are working on a plan to oust Allen through "written assent," which allows board members to take action by casting their votes in writing. Such a vote could happen later this week.

A SAG spokeswoman said neither Allen nor the guild would comment. In letter to members sent over the weekend, Allen acknowledged that the board is now "deeply and publicly split" and vowed to press ahead with the strike authorization vote if the board does not accept his "compromise."

The suggestion did not sit well with board member Todd Hissong, president of SAG's Chicago branch.

"Yet again you have the audacity to make ultimatums to your employers," Hissong wrote. "I hereby demand your immediate resignation as our National Executive Director."

-- Richard Verrier