Hollywood actors split over vote on contract offer

Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:17pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hollywood-based hardliners in the Screen Actors Guild are pressing to put the major studios' latest contract offer to a vote by union rank and file in a move seen as possibly paving the way for a strike authorization.

SAG's Hollywood board, dominated by militants of the Membership First faction, approved a resolution on Monday urging the more moderate national board to conduct a ratification vote despite their shared opposition to the proposed deal.

But Membership First's plan calls for submitting the studios' "final" offer to SAG's members without a recommendation on whether they should endorse or reject it, according to media reports.

The hardliners presumably are counting on the proposed labor pact failing to win ratification, an outcome that would make a strike threat more credible and thus put more pressure on the studios to sweeten their offer.

The actors union and the studios have deadlocked for more than eight months over the terms of a new contract for SAG's 120,000 members in film and prime-time television.

The chief stumbling block was disagreement over how actors should be paid for work on the Internet, seen as the main distribution pipeline for visual entertainment in the future.

Membership First, led by SAG President Alan Rosenberg, has been at odds over how to clinch the best deal with the more moderate wing, Unite For Strength, which holds a slim majority on the national board.

Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney who has monitored the contract talks and has ties to both studios and labor, said the Hollywood board's action is another sign of how divided SAG has become.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows the Screen Actors Guild National Headquarters in Los Angeles July 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>