Hollywood actors remain in limbo on strike vote

Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:05pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Union hard-liners prevailed in a showdown at the Screen Actors Guild on Tuesday, defeating attempts by moderates to scuttle a planned strike referendum and oust negotiators they blamed for stalled contract talks with Hollywood's major studios.

The outcome of the 30-hour meeting by SAG's sharply divided national board left in doubt, however, when union leaders might go ahead with a vote seeking formal permission from rank-and-file members to call a strike.

Faced with dwindling support for a strike authorization amid a worsening economy, SAG leaders announced last month they would delay the referendum for at least three weeks, until after the January 12-13 board meeting, in hopes of restoring consensus.

In a terse statement issued at the end of the closed-door session, SAG said only that "no substantive actions were taken" and that "no mailing date has been set for the previously approved" strike referendum ballots.

Uncertainty over a strike vote also leaves in question whether next month's Oscars might be caught up in a labor confrontation.

SAG's 120,000 members have been without a film and prime-time TV contract since their old labor pact expired on June 30, after studios presented their "final" offer.

That proposal essentially mirrors terms accepted by several other Hollywood labor groups, including a smaller actors union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

SAG President Alan Rosenberg and executive director Doug Allen have nonetheless pressed for a better deal, making good on a long-standing pledge to take a tougher stance in labor talks than their immediate predecessors.   Continued...