WGA’s united front

Guild arms agree on bargaining strategy

Showing an unusually united front, the fractious Writers Guild of America has agreed on a bargaining strategy to present to producers when the two sides meet in the next few weeks to hammer out a new contract.

WGA board members in both Los Angeles and New York voted unanimously this week to recommend that the guild proceed with negotiations under the guidance of the Contract Adjustment Committee, which has enabled the WGA to sign contracts for 10 years without taking any rollbacks.

Tone changes

“It’s a huge sign of unity,” said WGA West president Daniel Petrie Jr. “It’s significant, in my view, as a change in the tone of the Writers Guild. Here we have a negotiating committee, comprised of people who were on opposite sides, come to a unanimous recommendation. It’s obviously the product of people who had very different views before.”

It was those opposing viewpoints that caused some members to reject the proposed contract when it was presented to WGA voters last fall. Defeat of the contract caused bitter recriminations between the eastern and western guilds, a rift that is only just being healed.

East vs. West

The bad blood was such that members in Los Angeles filed a complaint with the Dept. of Labor, alleging improprieties in the way the September election was conducted. The 95 complainants said the election had been tainted by campaign violations that included improper funding of mailings and a lack of safeguards against fraud in the balloting.

The recommendations approved by the WGAW on Tuesday and WGA East on Thursday have to do with bargaining strategy and are being kept under wraps. The Contract Adjustment Committee enables the guild to conduct fluid, fast-track negotiations that are far removed from the days of 11th-hour, under-the-gun talks conducted under the threat of strikes.

The writers’ talks with producers, for which no date has been set, will be held amid the uncertainty of the Screen Actors Guild negotiations; in those, both sides have come in with widely divergent proposals, leading to murmurs of a strike.

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