200 members prep for contract talks

The Writers Guild of America West, ramping up for next year’s potentially contentious contract bargaining, drew 200 members last week to an organizing meeting in Santa Monica.

The session, headed by WGAW executive director John McLean and open only to members, focused mostly on steps to improve residuals and creative rights such as the proposed abolition of film directors’ ability to negotiate a possessory credit, i.e. “a film by.”

Leaders have stressed the union plans to seek substantial gains in the areas of cable and foreign TV residuals, which have not seen significant contract increases in many years, along with creating provisions for Internet use.

The event also provoked discussion of the possibility of a strike with union leaders indicating they do not believe a work stoppage is inevitable while cautioning members to be aware of the possibility. One official warned the audience it might be prudent to hold off on buying a sports car any time soon.

The contract for both sections of the guild, which has more than 11,000 members, will expire on May 1, 2000. The writers, who last struck in 1988 when they stayed out for 22 weeks, are generally viewed as the most likely among the industry’s unions to follow through on a strike threat.

The WGAW will hold another organizational session for members at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills on April 30.

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