Tensions mount inside actors union over contract

Mon Aug 18, 2008 9:28pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tensions within the Screen Actors Guild mounted on Monday as the union's Hollywood-based leaders rejected a call by SAG's New York branch to bring in a federal mediator to break a deadlock in contract talks with major studios.

Members of the New York regional board also publicly challenged the assertions of SAG president Alan Rosenberg and chief negotiator Doug Allen that the union is holding informal talks with studio representatives in a bid to close a deal.

And they accused SAG negotiators, in a resolution passed unanimously last week by the 23-member New York board, of "failing to bargain realistically ... and remove unattainable items from the table."

"There's no discernible plan here," New York division board member Paul Christie told Reuters. "You can't have a plan that just says, 'We're holding secret meetings.' And our question is just what the hell does that mean?"

Rosenberg condemned the resolution as "political" in nature and "an attempt to damage SAG's negotiations."

The sharply worded exchanges on Sunday and Monday further heightened a growing internal split over the seven-week-old contract stalemate.

"SAG really is a union divided," said entertainment lawyer Jonathan Handel, a former co-counsel for the Writers Guild of America with ties to both Hollywood labor and management.

A moderate faction within SAG's Hollywood branch recently launched a campaign to wrest control of the powerful union from the Rosenberg-led Membership First coalition in national board elections set for September 18.   Continued...

<p>The Hollywood sign is seen on a hazy afternoon in Los Angeles, California in this November 4, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>