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Updated: SAG Sets Date for Strike-Vote Ballots

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LOS ANGELES Screen Actors Guild leadership has notified its members that strike authorization ballots will be mailed to them on Friday, Jan. 2. Only those of the 120,000-strong membership that are paid up in full at that time can vote on the measure which, if passed, would give the guild's national board of directors the authority to call a strike.

At least 75 percent of those voting would have to respond "yes" for the measure to pass. Those votes will be tabulated at Integrity Voting Systems in Everett, Wash., on Jan. 23.

"SAG members understand that their futures as professional actors are at stake," SAG national president Alan Rosenberg said, "and I believe that SAG members will evaluate the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers' June 30 offer, and vote to send us back to the table with the threat of a strike. A 'yes' vote sends a strong message that we are serious about fending off rollbacks and getting what is fair for actors in new media."

The two sides in the labor dispute -- SAG and the companies represented by the AMPTP -- have been at an impasse since July. The participation of a federal mediator in October and November did not bring about a resolution to the prolonged, combative contract negotiations.

In waiting until the new year, SAG leaders expressed a desire to avoid burdening members with the decision over the holidays and to give themselves more time to persuade members of its justification. Among other things, the timing of the vote tabulation means that the Golden Globes show, at least, appears safe from any kind of walkout or boycott by movie stars and nominees. The show will take place Jan. 11.

Last year's ceremony was crippled by the actors' offscreen support of the writers strike.

"We will continue our comprehensive education campaign and urge our members to vote yes on the strike authorization," national executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen said. "I am confident that members around the country will empower our negotiating team with the leverage and strength of unified Screen Actors Guild members. Our objective remains to get a deal that SAG members will ratify -- not to go on strike."

The AMPTP quickly responded with its own statement: "It's now official: SAG members are going to be asked to bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history. We hope that working actors will study our contract offer carefully and come to the conclusion that no strike can solve the problems that have been created by SAG's own failed negotiation strategy."