SAG Replaces Negotiator, Likely Ending Threat of Strike

New Team Expected to Work Out Contract for Actors' Union

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Advertisers may now exhale. A week after change came to Washington, it finally arrived at Hollywood's largest actors' union as well: The Screen Actors Guild's national board has fired former NFL-players negotiator Doug Allen as its chief negotiator and executive. It is also sacking its negotiating committee and replacing it with a soon-to-be-named task force.

Doug Allen
Doug Allen
The union is bifurcating Mr. Allen's former duties: Former SAG Associate National Director John McGuire will assume the role of lead negotiator, while former general counsel David White will be interim national executive director.

Hollywood and Madison Avenue have been on tenterhooks as to whether the union, which has been operating without a contract since July 2008, would go on strike over digital issues. Feature-film production in Los Angeles has dropped to the lowest levels on record, according to FilmL.A., which issues permits to shoot in the city. On-location shoots fell 14% last year, and in the fourth quarter plunged 46%. It was the weakest quarter in 15 years.

'A difficult time'
In a statement released late yesterday evening, Mr. White called the current climate a "difficult time for the Screen Actors Guild and a particularly challenging period for working actors," and indeed, his hire is seen as a sign that tough economic conditions and months of intractability on the part of the union's hard-liners have taken their toll.

David White
David White
Former SAG staffers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mr. McGuire's hire also means the threat of a strike is all but over. He held the second-highest executive position at the union from 1983 to 2001, and has participated in or led more than 30 contract negotiations covering actors.

A spokeswoman for the union said neither the guild nor Mr. Allen would comment on the decision to terminate his $500,000 contract, on which a year still remains.

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