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SAG board members spurn Allen gambit

January 15, 2009 |  6:46 pm


Some call it a Hail Mary pass.

Beleaguered Screen Actors Guild Executive Director Doug Allen, who barely survived an effort to oust him from his job at a marathon board meeting this week, is now attempting to make nice with his critics on the board in an apparent last-ditch effort to keep his job.

But the overtures aren't working with his opponents on the board, who have the votes to get him fired and are still actively working toward that goal.Ctlogosmall

In a letter to board members Wednesday, the former Buffalo Bills linebacker proposed suspending a planned strike authorization vote by members, as a number of union members had demanded. He also suggested that the union's 120,000 members vote on the studios' final offer -- without a recommendation from the board.

That's a startling turnaround for a union leader who had spent months belittling the studios' final offer as threatening the very future of middle-class actors, and who had argued forcefully that a strike authorization vote was needed to give him a big stick in negotiations with the studios.

Allen further urged the board members to end their bickering. "Super-heated rhetoric through the press will not contribute to our success on behalf of the members," he wrote. "Working together to resolve your differences will."

But his letter was roundly panned by the moderate board members, who failed to fire Allen during an around-the-clock board meeting Monday and Tuesday after his supporters filibustered a vote on his future.

"After spending $100,000 propagandizing that this is a horrible deal, how can he now claim that this be sent out" without a recommendation from the board, said Richard Masur, a New York board member and former SAG president. "It's an astonishing piece of cynical manipulation."

Ned Vaughn, a spokesman for the Unite for Strength group of moderates, said: "His turnaround on the strike authorization is notable, but the majority of the board wouldn't have stayed up through 28 hours of relentless stalling if it had confidence in Doug Allen's leadership."

Indeed, far from seeking conciliation with Allen, Vaughn and other moderates on the board have hardened in their resolve to oust him and to disband the union's negotiating committee.

Short of demanding another emergency board meeting, the dissident directors could also invoke a so-called written assent provision in the union's constitution. That would allow the board to take action on a matter without actually meeting, so long as a majority of members indicate their votes in writing.

People close to the situation said that Allen's fate could be determined as early as next week.

Allen was not available for comment.

SAG President Alan Rosenberg said he welcomed Allen's suggestion and blasted his detractors. "For them to object to Doug's proposal is pathetic and laughable,"  he said. "They want to get rid of Doug because he's too strong and too much of a unionist."

-- Richard Verrier