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Johnson Out, McCord In as SAG 1st VP
BY ANDREW SALOMON
The Screen Actors Guild’s national president, Alan Rosenberg, was dealt a serious blow last week when the Membership First-dominated Hollywood board of directors ousted his most trusted adviser, Anne-Marie Johnson, from her post as 1st national vice president. Kent McCord, a previous 1st vice president and former candidate for the SAG presidency, was elected Oct. 4 to fill her position by what some board members described as a razor-thin margin and in what Rosenberg, Johnson, and Paul Christie, president of the union’s New York branch, view as a rebuke by the party on whose platform Rosenberg and Johnson were elected.
“This election [for vice president] wasn’t really aimed at Anne-Marie; it was aimed at me, and the efforts we’ve made to build unity across the country,” said Rosenberg, adding that he was “devastated.” “These are a bunch of Hollywood-centric people who want to lord it over the rest of the country. That’s just not the way to build unity looking toward our negotiations in 2008.”
That’s when SAG will negotiate two major agreements with employers-the commercials and TV/theatrical contracts-and Rosenberg and Johnson believe the Membership First rift could hinder the union’s position. “They’re sitting around, cracking open bottles of wine and smoking cigars, going, ‘Well, this is gonna be easy,’ ” Johnson said of the producers and advertisers who will negotiate with SAG in two years. Johnson, who was re-elected to the national and Hollywood boards with more than 60 percent of the vote last month, will retain her three-term seat on the 55-member, largely Membership First panel.
Sounds of the Fury
One SAG member, who previously held a seat on the Hollywood board as part of the Membership First slate and is intimately familiar with discussions among current board members, said Rosenberg and Johnson became distant from their own party after Rosenberg assumed the presidency last year.
“They’ve been furious with Alan and Anne-Marie for a long time because of this imperial, ‘We know better than you so we don’t have to listen to you anymore’ mentality,” said the former board member, who requested anonymity. “Part of the perception is, now that [McCord] is in there and he’s our man, he’ll listen to us.” The source added, “In order to pursue this ‘Peace in Our Time’ thing,” Rosenberg and Johnson “had to distance themselves from Membership First.” The source is no longer a Membership First member but remains sympathetic to many of the party’s positions.
Rosenberg and Johnson do not dispute the assertion that they have detached themselves from their party. Johnson said they wanted to assume a more independent mien as they attempted to unite factions within SAG; she wanted to run in the recent board election as an independent, but Rosenberg told her she wouldn’t get enough votes to secure her re-election as his 1st vice president unless she ran on the Membership First slate. “We thought that was the most important thing: to keep the team together,” Johnson said. She added that she and Rosenberg “had secured 21 of the 33 votes for the [vice presidential election], and I was completely broadsided.”
McCord could not be reached for comment, but he issued a statement after his election that indicated he was eager to work with Rosenberg: “From the time I was first elected to the national board in 1972, I have fought to keep our union open, inclusive, and prepared for the future…. I am eager to participate with [Rosenberg], the board, and all of our members here in Hollywood and throughout the country to ensure that we remain prepared to protect and improve our members’ wages and working conditions in this rapidly expanding entertainment industry.”
Rosenberg’s attempt to unify SAG has markedly changed one dynamic of the Guild’s politics: Christie, also SAG’s 2nd national vice president, now sounds like one of Rosenberg’s biggest allies. “If you had talked to me a year ago, we were split right down the middle,” Christie said. “Alan busted his chops to repair that, and Anne-Marie has been a huge part of that. Now, beyond a working relationship, I have a friendship with Alan. That’s not something that comes to you easily.”
The long-standing rift between New York and Hollywood originated partly with the commercials strike of 2000, according to the SAG source. Since SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists extended their Commercials Contract with advertisers in August, the New York-Hollywood rift has healed, the source continued, but it came at the expense of unity within Membership First.
Rosenberg, however, has had a difficult time affecting an air of unity. Last month Laird Stuart, a former SAG vice president who disagreed with the two-year extension of the Commercials contract, circulated a heated email exchange between himself and the national president to an estimated 17,000 SAG members. After Stuart emailed members a suppressed minority report that opposed the extension, Rosenberg told him in a personal email to “find a place to molt, you sorry excuse for a human being.” In an interview with Back Stage, Rosenberg said his email was “not one of my most presidential things.”
Most members supported Rosenberg, calling Stuart’s actions unprofessional and unwarranted. But the ouster of Johnson indicates the president has lost much of his influence, something he can’t quite understand. “All of these complaints with Membership First about how we’re not listening to Hollywood or giving enough to Hollywood, that’s just all wrong,” Rosenberg said. “I’ve met with every leader of Hollywood every week of my administration to talk about all the issues.”
Christie, who was re-elected as 2nd national vice president at the New York board’s meeting Oct. 10, said SAG will move forward despite Johnson’s defeat: “You will have the New York division aligned and working closely together with Hollywood, and you’ll have a small pocket of people over there working on their own…. Hollywood has now marginalized this small faction within a faction. I don’t know what the endgame was here. If you look at this as a business…all you can come away with is it was done for spite.”
Lauren Horwitch and Nicole Kristal contributed to this report.
The election was aimed at him? Hollywood-centric? The only centricity at play here involves President Rosenberg’s EGO. And do you get the idea that perhaps, President Rosenberg ain’t exactly building UNITY by his public press bashing of the very people whose shirttails carried him into office!
You’ll also notice that the ones that are trying to do the lording here, with their press finger-pointing, do not include Kent McCord or Membership First, but rather President Alan Rosenberg, his senior advisor Johnson, and former antagonist turned ardent admirer NY 2nd VP Paul Christie.
Let’s take a look at who demonstrates centricity in this union. These little New York centric tidbits from SAG’s last presidential election:
Talk about uninttended contradictions: Let’s see if the Ol’ Dog has got this straight, they are USAN, United Screen Actors Nationwide, who are “Protecting New York/Keeping Work Here!” Huh?
So, they are a nationwide group of actors that want to protect New York work, bring work there, and keep work there. Hmmm, I can understand those in New York who support such an agenda, but the rest of you guys outside of the Big Apple, you guys is a little too altruistic for me.
See a similar pattern here? Alan Rosenberg claims to be a great unifier while publicly bashing Hollywood-centric opponents; on the other hand Paul Christie and his USAN party bash their Hollywood Extremist opponents, while at the same time accusing them of divisiveness. Both Rosenberg and his USAN cohorts out themselves, and don’t even realize it.
Alan and his New York Centric pals accuse Membership First of Hollywood centricity while offering no proof. If indeed Membership First were Hollywood centric surely they would have used the same type of USAN protectionist rhetoric in their public statements, campaign mailers and fliers. In fact, the only use of similar coastal centric card playing was not used by Membership First, but, rather, by USAN’s affiliated party, Restore Respect:
So, these two affliated parties,USAN/Restore Respect were sending regional protectionism mailers to regionally selected voters to pit one group against the other to get their respective votes, and President Rosenberg has the gall to identify board members of his party as Hollywood Centric. I’m Devestated, ah, wait no that’s his line, ain’t it.
Look, the truth of the matter is that Membership First has been pushing for things that truly benefit all our members like National Tax Incentives and FTAC. Unfortunately, their lack of centricity has been used against them and Hollywood’s membership by Paul Christie and USAN’s New York centric leadership which has been successful with their tax incentives that lure work from Hollywood to New York. A fact of which they brag about to their constituency.
They cloak their actions as a victory against Runaway Production even though the report on which they base their claims states, “
“U.S. state incentives are working, but it is not clear if they are keeping production from leaving the U.S.,or just movingthem from one U.S. location to another, especially, if a location doesn’t offer any incentive.”
In relationship to 2008 negotiations, and the rift which she, and the president she advises, took to the press, Anne-Marie Johnson says of our employers, “They’re sitting around, cracking open bottles of wine and smoking cigars, going, “Well, this is gonna be easy.”
Of course they are! And why shouldn’t they be? Hey, she and President Rosenberg have just dumped on the only board members who consistently standup to them, in favor of a go-along-to-get-along group that is usually ready to fold after an opposing negotiator’s first icy stare.
Another irony here is that “Rosenberg and Johnson” admit that they have detached themselves from the Hollywood board, and yet they’re devastated that the Board chose Kent McCord to represent their interests. Well, duh!
Also, Johnson admits that she wanted to run as an independent, but Rosenberg told her she wouldn’t get enough votes. So, she used Membership First to get elected, and then when she found out she couldn’t use them to get reelected as 1st VP again, she along with Rosenberg ran to the press crying racismah, of course this has all been done to “KEEP THE TEAM TOGETHER.”
As, to Christie now sounding like one of Rosenberg’s biggest allies, well, Duh, again!
Now, that Mr. Rosenberg has basically fractionalized his own party with charges of racism and centricity, Mr. Cristie, and his lock-stepping group in NY, along with the branches, will now be the controlling force in the boardroom.
President Rosenberg’s recent ranting in the press, seen by many as simply petulant naivete at work, could actually be a premeditated piece of political pragmatism. For you see, preeminent in President Rosenberg’s current personal agenda is a plan to immerse SAG into the Arts, Entertainment, Media and Telecommunications industries ICC (Industry Coordinating Committee) which would eliminate SAG’s autonomy on such issues as contracts and jurisdiction–and BIND it to the dictates of ten other unions, including those headed by John Connolly and Tom Short.
The Membership First board members stood against this predatory binding alignment when John McGuire tried to pressure them into signing it during a plenary. So, Mr. Rosenberg knows that he could not get it past them, unless they were somehow fractionalized. That has apparently been accomplished as the result of his recent divisive comments in the press. Therefore, by realigning himself with USAN, he only needs four Membership First defectors to succeed in his ICC agenda.
When queried about the BINDING elements of the agreement, Mr. Rosenberg responds not to worry, we will control the committee. Yeah, right, our president will have Tom Short eating out of his hand.
Tom Short who had this comment in Variety Magazine on 3/10/06
“We have a couple of local unions that have too many chronically unemployed or retired officers and officers with issues that have kept them from working in the industry,” Short said. “We don’t want to end up emulating the Writers Guild of America, West and the Screen Actors Guild.”
In regards to Mr. Christie, you gotta love his comment about Membership First voting for Mr. McCord out of spite against President Rosenberg.
Ah, this from a guy who challenged President Rosenberg’s election because he ran against and secured a victory over his parties candidate, Morgan Fairchild! A challenge, by the way, that was dismissed without comment by the NLRB.
Other than political, or ego, the only other explanation for President Rosenberg’s recent actions, is that he is suffering a need to please his tormentors, sort of a prodding version of the Stockholm Syndrome, what I have labeled the Strokeem Syndrome. First Poke ’em and then Stroke ’em. (Okay, I’m not a psychologist but I have stayed a Motel Six.)
A.L. Miller SW Editor & Chief
Although, we all appreciate President Rosenberg’s past efforts to unite this union, his recent ill-advised actions have nullified them, and are leading us to, not only a course of divisiveness never before approached in our union, but an alignment that will reduce our great union to little more than a pawn of John Sweeny’s AFL-CIO.
On a personal note, my notes in a conversation with President Rosenberg indicate that he promised that should there be serious board opposition to the ICC agreement, he would agree to send it to the membership in referendum. Lets hope that he will live by that promise.
All Formatting is SW’s.