Union politicking is expected to heat up this summer within the ranks of the Writers Guild of America, West, as members prepare for a September election that could well be nasty in nature, with the potential to drastically alter the makeup of the WGAW’s elected officers and governing board.This year’s election comes at a time when union leaders are having a number of face-offs with a vocal and combative faction of dissenters. Exactly how large or influential that faction is remains to be seen. Their latest clash — which landed the guild in federal court — concerns a suit filed by three members against the WGAW’s board of directors and executive director over requiring members to sign a users agreement to use the union’s electronic bulletin board. The suit was filed to nullify the agreement. Yet that fight now appears to be moot, since the board, concerned in recent years over potential legal liability, voted to shut down all public forums on the BBS and rescind the users agreement just days after the suit was filed. Back in court The matter will be back in court today, with the trio of litigants asking a federal court judge to force the guild to restore use of the public forums. Ironically, the outcome of today’s hearing could have a critical effect on the election in September, as many members say that the BBS was one of the more effective ways for people to campaign for office. “Without the BBS, people will have to go back to the old-fashioned method of getting out there and schmoozing, which can be very time-consuming,” noted one writer. Other areas of controversy in recent months have concerned whether or not the Guild will bring non-unionized animation writers into the fold, a series of proposed credit changes and the proposal to change the entire voting procedure. In the latter dispute, one key area of disagreement concerns whether the guild’s executive staff and exec director Brian Walton should have the ability to voice opinions on future election amendments. While the upcoming officer/board election will not be held until Sept. 21, the lengthy process is already under way with the recent selection of two nominating committees, one to choose candidates for the board of directors and the other to nominate officer candidates. Among the positions that will be up for grabs are president, vice president and secretary-treasurer. There are also eight seats on the board with terms soon expiring. Those appointed to the board nominating committee are: Katherine Coker, Robert P. King, Peter Lefcourt, Brenda Lilly, David Rich, Tom Rickman, John Riley, Adam Rodman, Susan Sebastian, John Wirth and Bryce Zabel. The officers nominating committee consists of: Ron Austin, Christopher Knopf, Ann Marcus, Daryl G. Nickens, Arthur Sellers, Vida Spears and Greg Strangis. “Ideally the nominating committee should pick candidates with diverse views, set up a real horse race,” said another member. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.” The way the Guild elections work is that the nominating committees choose official candidates, while other aspirants can run by petition. For those who run by petition, the BBS can be a crucial tool in getting their views out to members in a cost-effective fashion. In order to be eligible, members must be of current working status and in good standing on their union membership for the year preceding the September election.
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