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SAG’s Doug Allen on the hot seat

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Now that dissidents have eked out a narrow majority on the national board of the Screen Actors Guild, is former football player Doug Allen about to be put on the sidelines?

The onetime NFL linebacker has been a polarizing figure since his arrival in Hollywood nearly two years ago from the NFL Players Assn. Hailed by supporters as a breath of fresh air and a tough negotiator, Allen also been vilified by critics for alienating talent agents, clashing with New York board members and leading an all-out war against the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

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The latter was the final straw for many of the dissidents, who saw the sparring as a costly distraction that weakened SAG’s bargaining leverage. They campaigned to merge the two unions.

All of which would seem to spell trouble for Allen, who has been closely identified with the Membership First group that lost its majority on the national board in Thursday’s election.

But guild insiders said dissidents haven’t decided whether to replace Allen as a chief negotiator. Some are clamoring for his ouster, believing it would signal a definitive change of course in the stalled talks. Others fear that doing so would just make it harder for SAG to recruit a replacement -- he’s the third executive director in three years -- and further divide a union sorely in need of less drama.

Those and other questions are expected to be raised in a key teleconference next week of the new Hollywood-division board members with their allies in New York and the regional branches.

New board member Adam Arkin, star of ‘Chicago Hope’ and ‘Life,’ said he’s keeping an open mind about the guild’s chief negotiator: ‘We’ll have to wait and see how flexible Doug Allen is in terms of responding to the needs of the board.’

Ned Vaughn, a leader of the Unite for Strength group who was elected as an alternate board member, was more blunt: ‘The executive director takes his direction from the national board,’’ he said. ‘Insofar as there is a new majority and there may be some change in that direction, we need to have a conversation with him [Allen] to make sure he is comfortable with that change.’

-- Richard Verrier


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