Hollywood actors union ousts chief negotiator

Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:47am EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Union moderates fighting for control of the deeply splintered Screen Actors Guild on Monday ousted the hard-line chief negotiator they blame for months of stalled contract talks with Hollywood studios.

The removal of Doug Allen as both SAG's national executive director and head of its bargaining team capped a turbulent period for the union that raised prospects of a strike, then saw power shift away from militant leaders as their stalemate with studios dragged on and the U.S. economy worsened.

Allen, hired by SAG in 2006 after two decades as a top executive at the union for National Football League players, was viewed by his critics as overly confrontational and unwilling to make the compromises necessary to close a deal.

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

The two sides were most firmly at odds over how actors should be paid for work on the Internet, seen as the main distribution pipeline for visual entertainment in the future.

SAG moderates have since pressed for additional gains in non-Internet areas in exchange for accepting the studios' terms on new media -- essentially the same package adopted by several other Hollywood labor groups, including a smaller actors' union, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

In a brief email to staff that surfaced on the Internet, Allen said he was proud of his record at SAG.

"I am disappointed in the board's decision," wrote Allen, a former NFL linebacker who was once a teammate of O.J. Simpson. "I wish Screen Actors Guild and its members success and I have been honored to serve them."   Continued...