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Dissident actors challenge SAG leaders

More than 30 actors dissatisfied with stalled contract talks said Wednesday they have joined to campaign for seats on the Screen Actors Guild’s board of directors, a move that could eventually break the stalemate with Hollywood studios.The 31 actors running under the name Unite for Strength are challenging the leadership of guild president Alan Rosenberg and the faction that supports him, Member
/ Source: The Associated Press

More than 30 actors dissatisfied with stalled contract talks said Wednesday they have joined to campaign for seats on the Screen Actors Guild’s board of directors, a move that could eventually break the stalemate with Hollywood studios.

The 31 actors running under the name Unite for Strength are challenging the leadership of guild president Alan Rosenberg and the faction that supports him, Membership First.

“We can no longer afford leaders who sow division,” Unite for Strength leader Ned Vaughn said in a statement that singled out the gap that opened between SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists during the talks.

In response, SAG said only that it planned to release the official list of candidates on Aug. 5 after the nominating period has closed and candidate eligibility has been confirmed.

Ballots will go out to members on Aug. 19 and are due back to the union by Sept. 18, with results expected to be announced that evening. About a third of the board’s 71 seats are at stake.

It’s unlikely there will be any movement in the negotiations until after the election, said entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel, a former associate counsel for the Writers Guild of America.

If the current leaders remain in control, it could be seen as an endorsement of their position on the contract. But a ballot result favoring Unite for Strength could prove to be a game-changer.

“If the challenge slate gains control, it will probably move to fire the executive director, change the composition of the negotiating committee, and the studios will probably sit down with them pretty promptly and negotiate a deal,” Handel said.

The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, made what they have called their final offer on June 30, when the three-year SAG contract expired.

The producers have said the proposal is worth $250 million in additional compensation over three years, compared to the previous contract. SAG has disputed the figure and said the deal falls short in pay and union jurisdiction on made-for-Internet productions.

The offer mirrors those previously accepted by writers, directors and by AFTRA, the smaller actors union. SAG’s had urged AFTRA members to reject the deal.

The writers guild deal was reached after a 100-day strike that ended in February and cost the local economy an estimated $2 billion. SAG members have kept working after their contract expired.

The alliance has said it’s not interested in further negotiations. No new talks are scheduled.

“Private Practice” stars Kate Walsh and Amy Brenneman are part of the slate of challengers.

Unite for Strength said its goals are to win a majority of the national board seats designated for Hollywood branch members and to end control of the board by Membership First, which the new faction said has long maintained a hostile stance toward AFTRA.

A total of 11 board members and 22 alternates will be elected by Hollywood division members. The New York division is voting for five board members and nine alternates, with seven seats for SAG branches in other cities to be filled.

Rosenberg became president nearly three years ago with the goal of taking a harder line in contract talks with studios.