With apparently little dissent in the ranks of the Writers Guild of America East, candidates for Thursday’s board elections are conducting themselves in collegial fashion, with none of the rancor that’s spattering the race in the West.
Statements by the 21 candidates for 10 seats on the WGAE council contain only the occasional barb, none of them directed at fellow candidates, but rather toward their counterparts in Los Angeles, many of whom are considered bellicose and fretful.
At the same time, some of the Eastern candidates are urging better relations between the two guilds, which function autonomously and have spent much of the past year bickering with each other over the failed contract vote of September 1997 and other issues.
“We must sincerely and openly examine and restore our relationship with our partners in the West,” Claire Labine, a WGAE council member for 13 years, said in a statement sent to members as part of the ballot package.
Richard Wesley, a two-term council member, said WGA members on both coasts “must decide once and for all what kind of union we propose to have.”
“The struggles, the turmoil, the pain we have endured over the past several months; the lingering dissatisfaction among many of our members over the recently negotiated MBA (minimum basic agreement), all attest to the struggle currently going on for the soul of the Writers Guild of America,” Wesley said.
Most of the Eastern candidates seem to feel that their energies are best put to use fighting for better deals with employers and other matters close to their daily bread and butter.
“This wonderful WGAE of ours has a tough struggle ahead,” said Wayne Wolter, a shop steward and graphic artist employed by CBS for almost 30 years. “We’ll have difficult dealings with miserly managers. The big fights will be over new technology, cutting staff jobs and loss of jurisdiction.”
Frank Dalton, who organized fellow workers at Shadow Broadcast Services in 1996, said that with mergers and takeovers in the broadcast industry increasingly on the rise, “the potential for companies to take advantage of their employees is greater than ever before.”
Thomas Babe, who found out he wanted to be a writer only after he tried law school, promised he would put his time and energy on the line fighting over “minimums, residuals, creative control and the encroaching shade of Los Angeles.”
David Black echoed the theme, vowing to “address guild issues from the point of view of the average rank-and-file member — practical matters like slow payments of fees, free drafts, and studio demands for revised pitches that are essentially unpaid story meetings.”
But journalist and author Pete Hamill, a member for almost three decades, departed from the norm, saying he had two specific issues to address should he win a board seat: the first is “the ageism that is now afflicting our trade.”
“Every good writer matures into mastery,” Hamill wrote. “We must use every available forum to remind producers of the value of seasoned talent. The current round of scandals in journalism and the prevailing stupidity of many movies and TV shows are products of the same trend: the loss of mature, intelligent old masters.”
Secondly, he criticized the “unreadability of almost all communications from our union,” particularly notices about the health plan.
“There must be some way to translate most of this goddamned gibberish into something resembling the plain and simple glories of the English language,” Hamill said. “As members of a guild of writers, we must insist that our own communications are lucid.”