Brooks Barnes of the New York Times is neither liked nor trusted by most Hollywood labor folks but on this particular issue – the internal controversy generated within SAG by the upcoming January Strike Authorization Vote – he seems to be right on the money.
The Town Hall meeting held by SAG earlier this week, from reports I have received, included some visible dissent. In any case, one would have thought thousands not hundreds would turn out if the membership was enthusiastic about the walkout ballot. Certainly the WGA could count on that kind of support in the run up to its strike.
More telling perhaps, and not mentioned by Barnes, was the flop with agents and publicists. A total of 30 took the time to meet in NY and LA with SAG leaders Doug Allen and Alan Rosenberg. Either this important audience has already heard the 2Allens line or does not care. Barnes notes that some agents are quietly waging a campaign against a strike.
The virtual boycott of the meeting may have been their first shot across the SAG bow.
Other signs of the depth of discontent include a call for the dismissal of Doug Allen, SAG’s National Executive Director, by Eileen Henry, wife of Richard Masur. Both of these accomplished actors have been long time leaders in SAG’s NY branch. Henry is a former NY Board president. Allen has become closely identified as a representative of the Membership First faction rather than seen as a credible leader representative of the entire Guild.
If the SAV, which will be tallied on January 23, fails to reach the required 75% threshold with a large turnout it will be an embarrassing defeat for the current Membership First leaders of SAG. Passing the 75% mark with a low turnout – which some surmise is the MF strategy – would gain the Guild little leverage at the table.
It seems a bit odd that this decision – to push for a Strike Vote – came from the same committee that has failed to secure a deal at the table with the Producers. In most unions that decision would have had to go back to the full board for approval. There is no escaping the conclusion that by punting on this critical decision to a committee of the National SAG Board controlled by Membership First, the Board has put the entire Guild on a perilous path.