Screen Actors Guild leaders have dismissed an attempt from within their ranks to remove the guild's chief negotiator, a move likely to add fuel to the internal feud.
SAG leaders hope to ask their roughly 110,000 members for permission to call a strike. But some members have faulted the guild for not making more progress in talks with studios and called for a new negotiating team.
They had hoped to force out SAG Executive Director Doug Allen — the guild's lead negotiator — at a meeting that lasted 30 hours over Monday and Tuesday.
But SAG leadership rejected a document Tuesday that called for Allen's ouster and a new approach to negotiations. The union said in a statement that its lawyers determined there were not enough signatures on the document, and that the signers' intentions were unclear.
Which means: SAG members who want Allen out are as unhappy as ever.
There was one plus for strike opponents: SAG still hasn't set a new date to send out its referendum asking for strike authorization.
The internal strife caused the guild to delay plans to send out ballots Jan. 2.
To call a strike, the union would need 75 percent of the members who cast ballots to vote in favor of authorization.
George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Russell Crowe, Sally Field, Robert Redford, Julianne Moore and Susan Sarandon are among those encouraging other members to vote no, saying a strike in the midst of a recession would be ill-timed.
Those who support authorization include Martin Sheen, Mel Gibson, Hal Holbrook, Holly Hunter, Rob Schneider, Alicia Witt, and former SAG president Ed Asner.
SAG covers filmed shows, mostly expensive dramas like Lost. Taped shows, such as Gary Unmarried, Rules of Engagement, and 90210 are covered by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
The unions share shows that are recorded digitally.
AFTRA, which includes 44,000 people who also belong to SAG, has already accepted a contract similar to the one studios are offering SAG.
AMPTP, which represents studios, made its final offer June 30 as SAG's contract expired. The union says the latest offer is insufficient in terms of new-media jurisdiction and residuals.
SAG's New York division announced Dec. 12 that they opposed the strike authorization vote, and later accused SAG President Alan Rosenberg and Allen of botching negotiations.
SAG leaders say the contract producers are offering doesn't adequately pay actors for videos that are streamed online. They also say actors should earn more from DVD sales, and deserve pay and control over product placements in shows and movies.
A strike would be another welt for the entertainment industry within a year of the writers' strike that sidelined the 2007-08 television season. One estimate placed the economic impact of the three-month strike, which was resolved in February, at $2.5 billion.
AMPTP estimates actors would lose $2.5 million a day by striking.
Working actors — those who make most of their income from film and TV — account for just about 10 percent of SAG members. The rest earn less than $28,000 a year from acting work, but many work in side jobs that could also be affected by the strike.
What do you think? Will SAG be able to muster support for a strike?