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The Day After, Wither Allen?

Strikewatch_blogA day after Membership First lost the majority on SAG' s national board--and lost some seats on the Hollywood board as well--the big question facing the guild is this: Will National Executive Director Doug Allen keep his job?

As the chief negotiator for a new TV and film contract, Allen has given voice to what Membership First has long wanted: a hard-line position in talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for a new TV and film contract--talks that have been stalled for close to three months.

Allen has also played a central role in the guild's antagonistic posture toward AFTRA; that has angered the national board members in New York and the regional branches who feel an affinity with their sister union.

Conversations with national board members today seem to indicate that Allen is "on thin ice," as one national board member put it, but it is not at all certain that he would be fired.

SAG has had five people serving in the post (or performing the duties of) national executive director this decade. It is the highest-ranking staff position in the guild and is supposed to be an apolitical office. However, in a bitterly partisan and divided union, the person serving as SAG NED has been subject to the whim of whichever party is in the majority. (The names of the particular factions vary often, but they are generally divided over two core issues: Should SAG merge with AFTRA, and how hard a line should it take in negotiations with various employers?)

Paul Christie, a national board member in New York and a former 2nd national vice president, was the least reassuring when asked if Allen would stay in his post. "If anybody is going to fire Doug Allen, it’s Doug Allen," he said. "The one mandate he had was to not only represent the majority but to defend and represent the wishes of the minority and he never did that at any turn."

A spokeswoman for SAG told Back Stage that Allen would not be available to comment until Monday. Ned Vaughn, spokesman for Hollywood opposition party Unite for Strength, did not return a call seeking comment. Unite for Strength won five national board seats and 13 alternate seats in the Hollywood Division in this month's elections, giving the pro-merger forces an apparent majority on the national board.

When asked if there were any scenario by which Allen would keep his job, Christie replied, "Honestly, from my perspective, I can’t give you a scenario where that works. I can’t see any way … I was one of the people involved in hiring him, and I can’t give you a realistic appraisal where I would find some justification for keeping him on."

Allen was hired in late 2006 with support from every division in SAG--Hollywood, New York, and the regional branches. But in mid-2007, when he pushed for bloc voting and stepped up his attacks on AFTRA, he made enemies of board members outside of Los Angeles, who have long favored a merger with their sister union.

However, Anne-Marie Johnson, a national board member in Hollywood and spokeswoman for Membership First, said, "I don't think they realize how complicated it is--and I've been through it--to remove an NED. First of all, they have to find cause. That will be a very, very hard stretch for them."

Johnson, who has been on the board since 1997, voted to fire national executive director Greg Hessinger right after MF assumed the majority on the national board in 2005. Hessinger had held the job for less than a year before he was deposed. The guild went more than a year without a full-time NED until Allen took over in January 2007.

"As far as I know Doug Allen's contract goes to January 2010," said one national board member who is part of the new majority. "Nobody ran on a platform of firing Doug Allen. Now, that does become a possibility... But the question to be asked is, 'Is the firing of Doug going help promote the big interest of the new majority, which is that we should merge our unions?.' It is less than 24 hours that we have been in this position. We're the moderates. We are not the knee-jerk [folks] that fired Greg Hessinger."

Johnson questioned whether the pro-merger forces--Unite for Strength partisans and board members in New York and the regional branches--will have a clear majority on the national board. "Mathematically, to get anything done, they need 100 percent of the New York board and 100 percent of the [Regional Branch Division]. It's going to be a hard task. They'll get New York, but they won't get 100 percent of the RBD. So if they're missing two voters from the RBD they won't get anything done. It's a tie. A lot of massaging will take place on both sides."

--Andrew Salomon

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I think it should be "whither."


I'd really like to know what Johnson means when she says "They'll have to find cause" in order to fire Doug Allen. They found no "cause" in firing Greg Hessinger. Alan Rosenberg said "I can't trust him" and that was that. Roberts Rules of Order were tossed out the window and Membership First ruled by fiat - by about 5 votes. No procedure, no process, no super-majority to end debate, no nothing except Rosenberg ranting from the Chair all day with Ate by his side come hot from hell...I mean AMJ running what Rosenberg had no knack for.

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