September 24, 2005

Actors union elects more militant president

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - TV actor Alan Rosenberg was elected
president of the Screen Actors Guild on Friday as the more
militant wing of the nation's largest performers union regained
control of the Hollywood-based labor group.

Rosenberg, best known for playing attorneys on such shows
as "L.A. Law" and "Civil Wars," succeeds two-term SAG president
Melissa Gilbert, the former child star who led a comparatively
moderate rival faction that swept to power in 2001, after a
bitter six-month strike against the advertising industry.

Gilbert, who charted a less confrontational course than her
immediate predecessor, Bill Daniels, announced in July that she
would not seek a third term as head of the union representing
120,000 TV and movie actors. The one-time star of "Little House
on the Prairie" cited her frustration with political rifts that
she said "may very well be irreparable."

In the three-way race to fill her post, Rosenberg gained
nearly 40 percent of the vote to defeat Morgan Fairchild, a
soap opera veteran and Gilbert ally, and longtime TV actor
Robert Conrad, best known for his roles on "Wild, Wild West"
and "Baa Baa Black Sheep," who ran as an independent.

Rosenberg ally Connie Stevens won the post of
secretary-treasurer, the union's second-highest office, and
their faction, dubbed Membership First, gained control of SAG's
national governing board for the first time since 2001.

The outcome signaled the likelihood of a more aggressive
stance by SAG toward Hollywood studios, advertisers and talent
agents as the union looks to negotiate new agreements with the
basic cable TV industry and a new commercials contract.

"I ran a campaign that offered a simple and straightforward
promise: I will fight like hell to get actors their fare
share," said Rosenberg, 54, who was active in the 1960s
anti-war movement and the Black Panther Party. He is married to
actress Marg Helgenberger, who stars on the hit CBS police
drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

One of his principal aims, Rosenberg said, was to secure a
higher share of the revenues actors earn in the form of
residual payments for work that appears on DVDs, a gain that so
far has eluded SAG and its sister unions.

Although out of power for the past four years, SAG's
Membership First managed to thwart Gilbert's efforts to win
rank-and-file support for several key initiatives, including a
proposed dues hike, a merger with the smaller American
Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and a new agreement
governing actors' relationship with talent agents.

The two-year terms of Rosenberg and Stevens formally begin
on September 25. He becomes the 24th president of SAG.