Thursday, December 25, 2008

SAG postponing Strike Authorization vote.

According to Variety, SAG's postponement of its strike authorization vote may signal that its leaders are tilting in a more moderate direction -- so much so that the divisive vote may be called off.

It's still unclear what direction the national board will take at its emergency meeting on Jan. 12-13, scheduled ostensibly by national exec director Doug Allen and president Alan Rosenberg to persuade the fractured 71-member panel to present a united front and convince members to vote up a strike authorization. But the timing of the Monday night announcement was telling. It came a few hours after Allen and Rosenberg met with leaders of the Unite for Strength faction, a group of Hollywood moderates who gained five board seats in the fall after campaigning on a platform that asserted that Rosenberg and his allies had bungled the contract negotiations strategy.

Unite for Strength spokesman Ned Vaughn told Daily Variety that he and his colleagues expressed concerns about going ahead with the vote, given the growing numbers of SAG members - particularly high-profile stars such as George Clooney and Tom Hanks - coming on the "no" side. "We felt that in light of what's been happening that it would have been reckless for the national board to proceed without having the chance to reconsider," Vaughn said. "We appreciate that they've taken our concerns seriously."

The victory by Unite for Strength wrested away control of the national board from the more assertive Membership First faction for the first time in three years and gave the moderates - comprised largely of New York and regional reps -- a narrow ruling margin . It's unclear whether the emergency board meeting will lead to the withdrawal of the authorization vote or replacing the SAG negotiating committee, which remains dominated by Membership First. Vaughn would not comment as to what steps the board might take but he expressed concern that scheduling the confab as a "face to face" meeting in Los Angeles on a Monday and Tuesday will make it more difficult for New York and regional branch members to attend. Similar concerns arose earlier this month when Rosenberg scheduled an emergency meeting for Dec. 19, but then called it off a few days later.

SAG's insisted it needs a strike authorization vote, which requires the approval of 75% of members who cast ballots, to force the congloms to improve their final offer and has spent the past year blasting the moguls and the deals they signed with the town's other unions,
particularly in new-media residuals and jurisdiction. The guild's also contended that signing the final offer will hasten the disappearance of residuals as TV programming migrates to the Web. But the majors have insisted that they won't change the terms of the deal and they've blasted SAG repeatedly for insisting it deserves better terms amid a full-blown recession.

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