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SAG, studios postpone talks as union president threatens lawsuit

Alan Rosenberg warns that he'll sue to block the new leadership and reinstate Doug Allen as chief negotiator. The move could delay negotiations for at least a week.

February 03, 2009|Richard Verrier

Throwing a monkey wrench into the renewal of contract talks with the major studios, Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg has launched a legal challenge to the legitimacy of the union's newly appointed leadership.

The move triggered an immediate reaction from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the studios, and SAG, which said they were postponing the resumption of long-stalled contract negotiations set to begin today because of a "legal proceeding."

Rosenberg and Anne-Marie Johnson, the union's first vice president, notified SAG on Monday of their intent to file a lawsuit seeking to reinstate Doug Allen as the union's chief negotiator and to reconstitute the guild's former negotiating committee, people close to the union said.

The union's board fired Allen last month, accusing him of mishandling negotiations with the studios, and replaced him with former SAG general counsel David White, who is acting as interim executive director, and John McGuire, who has been named the union's new chief negotiator.

The board also disbanded the union's negotiating committee, which was dominated by Allen's supporters, and appointed in its place a new task force.

But Rosenberg and Johnson maintain that the board's action was unwarranted and "undemocratic." The SAG leaders contend that the board's vote, which occurred by means of a "written assent," violated California's corporate code and should thus be nullified.

The union leaders also are seeking an injunction that would block the new negotiating team from moving ahead with contract talks. A judge could rule on that as early as today.

Although the legal challenge is considered a long shot, it could delay the talks for at least a week, people close to the negotiations say. Actors have been working without a contract since June 30.

Rosenberg, a staunch supporter of Allen's who warned that ousting him would trigger a "civil war," declined to comment. Johnson could not be reached.


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