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Actors bow out of strike vote after turnabout

THE Screen Actors Guild has lost the necessary support on its board to proceed with a strike vote after a hardline faction within the union and the guild's president on Thursday backed a plan to suspend the vote.

A group of Hollywood actors, led by guild president Alan Rosenberg, is also recommending sending the movie studios' final three-year contract offer directly to its 120,000 members for a vote.

The group's statement on Thursday follows months of preparations for a strike vote that would have given the guild the power to shut down production of major-studio movies and prime-time TV shows.

Although the guild has not acted officially to revoke its October 19 plan to call a strike vote if mediation failed, the Hollywood group known as Membership First was the last major bloc still supporting that plan. Its reversal now means chances of a walkout are extremely slim.

Other members of the 71-member board, including those from New York and the regions, also oppose a strike vote.

Thursday's statement came after a contentious 30-hour meeting last week at which Membership First filibustered and fended off a motion by upset board members to fire the guild's lead negotiator, National Executive Director Doug Allen.

Allen later backtracked on calls for a strike vote and suggested instead sending the producers' offer to actors for a vote.

"Reaching the obligatory 75 percent (support) of the SAG membership would be hard to achieve," the Hollywood group said in a statement. "We ... support the compromise presented by Doug Allen to the national board to suspend the strike authorization and to send the (studios') final offer out to the membership."

The guild said it had not yet acted on Allen's proposal.

The guild's board had voted overwhelmingly in October to hold a strike vote if last-ditch mediation with the studios failed. Despite those talks quickly falling apart, support for a strike vote waned as the economy worsened.

Jonathan Handel, an entertainment lawyer who has been following the contract dispute, said the guild has struggled to find a clear strategy in the face of the studios' refusal to budge from its final offer made last June.

"These guys are flailing, they've been flailing for quite some time actually," Handel said. "They've been struggling and bouncing from strategy to strategy with no clear focus."


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