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SAG president wins reelection as talks loom

September 21, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Alan Rosenberg narrowly fended off a challenge from veteran actor Seymour Cassel to win a second term as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

The 56-year-old actor, whose credits include "The Guardian" and "L.A. Law" on TV, defeated Cassel and two other opponents, background actor Barry Simmonds and Charley M. De La Pena, who is active on the guild's disabilities committee.

Rosenberg garnered 47% of the vote to secure another two years as president of Hollywood's most powerful union, according to results released late Thursday night.

The vote ended an usually acrimonious contest between Rosenberg and Cassel, two onetime allies, reflecting a schism within the faction that swept control of the union two years ago on a platform to secure higher pay for actors.

"I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to continue the hard work that I and the board have been doing for the last two years," Rosenberg said.

"We've got a lot on our plate, and hopefully we'll all move forward together."

Rosenberg's election comes in advance of pivotal contract negotiations with major Hollywood studios, which have already accelerated production of films and TV shows in anticipation of possible strikes by writers and actors.

Tensions have been running high amid disagreements over how talent should be paid for work distributed via the Internet and other new media.

The actors' contract expires June 30.

Rosenberg's supporters, who include Ed Asner, Meryl Streep and Tim Allen, credited him with leading the union through a turbulent two years and helping to improve relations between Hollywood and the union's regional branches.

Though Rosenberg was considered the favorite, Cassel mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge.

The 72-year-old union firebrand, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in "Faces" in 1968, had enlisted the support of such stars as Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke, James Caan and Dennis Hopper.

A SAG member since 1959, Cassel was elected to its board in 2001.

He and his supporters touted his experience in the industry and his toughness, but critics portrayed him as being too volatile, citing a history of disruptive conduct as a board member.

In an interview Thursday night, Cassel said he was proud of his campaign. He garnered 44% of the vote.

"I didn't play any dirty pool," he said. "I wish him luck."

In his second term, Rosenberg confronts a widening dispute with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists that could complicate the upcoming talks.

Under a 1981 agreement, the unions split votes on contracts that they jointly negotiate, even though SAG covers most of the work. That has been a bone of contention with the leaders of SAG.

Another challenge will be to reestablish a franchise agreement with agents.

The previous agreement governing rules of conduct between agents and actors lapsed in 2002.


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