Monday, January 26, 2009

SAG Moderates File Document to Fire National Executive Director

The civil war at the Screen Actors Guild has gone nuclear. As expected, the moderates on the SAG National Board today delivered a document to SAG headquarters that ousts Doug Allen as National Executive Director and dissolves the negotiating committee. Allen is replaced by two people: SAG’s former General Counsel David White as interim NED and SAG Senior Advisor John McGuire as Chief Negotiator. Guild president Alan Rosenberg is unmentioned in the document and would remain in place until his term ends in September.

The document, called a written assent, is signed by a majority of SAG’s national board (including Unite for Strength board members and most or all others who are not part of Membership First), as provided for in SAG’s constitution. The question now becomes whether SAG will accede to the assent, as it were. SAG will probably try to find some deficiency in the document, which I haven’t examined as it has not been released. Ultimately, I’d expect a lawsuit. This process will not be quick.

The SAG moderates’ statement is below.


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A Message to Members from the SAG National Board Majority

Today we took an important and necessary action to address the leadership crisis at Screen Actors Guild. Representatives from SAG’s National Board majority delivered a “written assent” document to SAG headquarters which authorized the following: Doug Allen is immediately replaced as National Executive Director by former SAG General Counsel David White, who will serve as interim NED; Guild Senior Advisor John T. McGuire is appointed as Chief Negotiator of all SAG contracts; the TV/Theatrical Contract Negotiating Committee is replaced by a Taskforce which will complete negotiations on behalf of the Board of Directors.

In a meeting two weeks ago, a majority of the board sought to make the crucial changes now contained in the written assent, but were derailed by President Alan Rosenberg and a minority of board members through endless parliamentary games and improper behavior. By filibustering for over 28 straight hours, they prevented the Board from ever taking a vote on the majority’s proposal.

This unprecedented level of obstruction has paralyzed the Guild.

Written assent is included in SAG’s constitution to allow a majority of the Board to take action outside the boardroom if necessary. While extraordinary circumstances may require the use of written assent, we do not believe it is a desirable way to conduct Guild business. In this case, the unrelenting obstruction by a minority of board members has left us no alternative.

This action has the support of all but one of the National Board members from SAG’S New York and Regional Branch Divisions, and all in the Hollywood Division except those affiliated with the group Membership First. The signed written assent documents were delivered today to SAG headquarters in Los Angeles.

Upon implementation of the approved motion, Interim National Executive Director David White will assume control of all Guild operations and will coordinate with Chief Negotiator John McGuire to contact the AMPTP to undertake resolution of TV/Theatrical Contract negotiations, which ground to a halt nearly seven months ago. The leaner TV/Theatrical Taskforce will work alongside Mr. McGuire as the "eyes and ears of the board," providing input and support as contract negotiations are concluded.

Beyond the stalled TV/Theatrical negotiations, there is much work to be done and SAG members can rest assured that we have secured an exemplary leader in David White. A Rhodes Scholar, Mr. White has extensive industry experience and was SAG's General Counsel from 2002 to 2006. He knows the Guild and its contracts, and has the respect of our staff and the entertainment community. Our Chief Negotiator, John McGuire, is a 40-year SAG staff veteran who has negotiated over 30 contracts and is held in enormous esteem throughout the industry and the labor movement. We have complete confidence in his ability to deliver the best possible contracts for our members.

These much needed changes will allow SAG to chart a new course. We will work to secure a TV/Theatrical Contract that can be sent to members with a positive recommendation, and to effectively resolve all our outstanding contracts, including the Commercials Contract. We will also work to rebuild vital relationships in the entertainment and labor communities, and to reestablish Screen Actors Guild as a respected and powerful institution, protecting and defending performers nationwide.


In its entirety, the written assent accomplishes the following:

- Removes Doug Allen as National Executive Director;

- Engages David White as interim National Executive Director;

- Names John McGuire as Chief Negotiator for all contracts, including the TV/Theatrical Contract currently in negotiation;

- Replaces the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee with a Taskforce, which will represent the Board of Directors;

- Directs that only interim NED David White, John McGuire, or their designee may communicate on behalf of Screen Actors Guild to other organizations, the general public, or the press;

- Retains the law firm of Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers LLP to advise the National Board and represent the Guild in negotiation of the terms of a written contract with David White;

- In response to voting irregularities at the last Board meeting, instructs SAG staff to develop and implement a fraud-proof security system to regulate the use of the voting remotes used by Board members to cast their votes.

*In the interest of compliance with the AFTRA-SAG non-disparagement agreement under the AFL-CIO, Members of SAG’s National Board majority who are also AFTRA officers or board members wish to officially record themselves as abstaining from this statement.


  1. There may be lawsuits, but that doesn't mean the process won't be quick. If SAG doesn't play ball (and there is some question as to who, exactly, is "SAG" in this instance), the moderate board members should be able to obtain a temporary restraining order on very short notice from the L.A. Superior Court.

    Alternatively, "SAG" (but who, exactly?) could try to go to court to seek to block implementation of the assent resolution -- but that brings up a very interesting question. Would Allen himself lead this counterattack? That seems awfully self-serving. More likely, I would guess, would be the Membership First board members seeking some kind of legal relief. But in the meantime, who would be in charge? Who would the staff take orders from?

    Back in the 1970's when I worked at one of the major television networks, my department head was fond of saying, "If the boss calls, get his name." Probably hear the same thing at 5757 this week.

    Meanwhile, there undoubtedly will be legal wrangling between Allen and SAG concerning his employment contract. However, the only thing at issue there is monetary compensation. Allen can't force SAG to keep him in charge -- all he can do is claim payment for the unexpired term of his contract.

    Foreseeably, there will be some kind of settlement. Neither Allen nor SAG can really afford to put its dirty linen out for public consumption in a lawsuit. I do believe, however, that SAG may have some merit in contending that Allen is being fired for cause. And as unemployable as Allen may now be following this episode, he would make the problem for himself even worse if he forces the issue.

    Frankly, even if SAG ends up paying, say, $200,000 to make Allen go away, that's still pennies compared to the tens of millions of dollars that SAG is leaving on the table with the expired Film/TV contracts and the work slowdown that has resulted from the threat of a strike.


  2. These people never sign their documents. They hide behind "the majority." Those on the other side who are fighting for a fair contract are not afraid to record their names.

    The damage this "idiocracy" has done may not be undone. People will learn their names and they will be defeated in the next election, but we will never be able to go back to that time before they issued their first press release.

    Shame on them. Shame.

    James Tripp

  3. Which part of "This action has the support of all but one of the National Board members from SAG’S New York and Regional Branch Divisions, and all in the Hollywood Division except those affiliated with the group Membership First" didn't you understand?


  4. James Tripp,

    "These people" ALWAYS sign their documents. They are also easily identified as all those on the member-elected SAG National Board who are not associated with Membership First. You, evidently, have not taken the time, or exerted the minimal effort necessary to see who proudly belongs to the National Board Majority. Considering your inability to seek out and synthesize this simple information, how could you possibly have researched the contract negotiations enough to develop your own, informed, educated stance on the matter? I hope you are not indicative of the majority of voting SAG members.

    Shame on you. Shame.

    Johanna Shapiro