This article was last updated at 10:30 pm PT, Feb. 26.
What’s left of the looming strike by the Screen Actors Guild? Precious little after a dramatic day in which a majority of members of the board demanded, finally, the exit of their embattled executive director, Doug Allen.
The ouster demand came in written “letters of assent” from guild moderates, delivered to the guild on Monday morning.
Allen accepted reluctantly, leaving Alan Rosenberg, the guild president who brought Allen to the guild and supported him through seven months of stalled negotiations with Hollywood studios, ever more weakened.
Accepting the demand for his departure, Allen wrote in a letter posted at sagwatch.net, “I have been informed by SAG counsel that the National Board has terminated my employment as National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator of Screen Actors Guild. I am disappointed in the board’s decision, which was made by written assent, and I am proud of my record as SAG’s NED and Chief Negotiator. I wish Screen Actors Guild and its members success and I have been honored to serve.”
Rosenberg, meanwhile, held fast to his views that the guild should have stayed the course, despite the rising view of even guild hardliners that support for a strike authorization vote – 75% would be needed -- had evaporated.
The guild leader told Variety: "They've sabotaged Doug and wreaked havoc without taking responsibility… This is the darkest day within my memory. It kills democracy at SAG." SAG did not respond to repeated requests for comment by The Wrap.
The invective came right back from national board member Richard Masur, a supporter of the moderate faction United For Strength: “How can anyone look at this trail of carnage and say that what’s been going on for past two years is effective negotiating,” he said in an interview with The Wrap.
The coup came just hours after the guild had its annual celebration of film, with a star-studded awards ceremony on Sunday night at The Shrine Auditorium. Members of the board delivered a document to SAG headquarters signed by a majority authorizing Allen’s immediate replacement by former SAG General Counsel David White, who will serve as interim executive director.
With Allen gone, left unsaid on Monday was the question of the fate of Rosenberg himself. The guild leader has alienated himself from a large portion of the membership and is perceived by many as having pursued an unsuccessful strategy despite dwindling support.
Masur said he did not seek Rosenberg’s removal but many other members would. “I think a lot of people would like to remove him but they don’t understand what’s involved,” he said.
Removing Rosenberg, whose term expires in September, would not be simple. A guild officer can be removed by a petition signed by 10 percent of the membership, which is logistically unrealistic in this case. The board can also remove an officer who has been found committing conduct unbecoming to the role, legally more complicated.
Allen had been embattled for weeks as opposition to a strike rose to a din within the union. The breaking point came at a marathon, 28-hour meeting on Jan 12 and 13, when filibustering by Allen’s supporters held up attempts to oust him.
Then last week the hardline faction on the board of the guild announced they did not support a strike authorization vote.
Meanwhile, guild veteran John McGuire was expected to step in and quickly take up the task of making a deal with the Hollywood studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Talks have been at a standstill since federal mediation came to a halt on November 22.
The studios have left their $250 million offer on the table, and insiders said they expected a deal by the time a scheduled board meeting of the guild in early February.
The good news for Hollywood may be that the ouster of Allen means that the prospect of a strike grows dimmer by the day. Individuals on both sides of the contract noted that the guild probably feels pressure to make a deal before the start of its new contract talks with commercial advertisers, which are scheduled for February 23.