WGA to help reality scribes

Nonfiction writers hope to get health, pension, credits protection

The Writers Guild of America has launched an organizing drive aimed at scribes working in the booming reality TV sector.

In a joint statement Monday, the WGA West and the WGA East announced the twin launches of the Nonfiction Writers Caucus and a Nonfiction Organizing Contract — a low-cost agreement for nonfiction series on basic cable nets. The guilds said the new pact includes standard contract features such as health, pension and credits protection but takes into consideration concerns unique to basic cable producers.

“For too long nonfiction writers have been treated by the industry as second-class citizens — they’re denied decent pay, health and pension benefits, even credit as writers,” said WGAW organizing director Gerry Daley. “We aim to change that, and these are the first steps on the road to full professional recognition for nonfiction writers.”

The guilds also announced that scribes joining the caucus will receive multiple benefits, including waiver of their initiation fee if the drive succeeds. The first caucus meeting will take place Thursday at WGA West headquarters in Los Angeles.

“By opening our doors wider, we ensure that writers in basic cable receive our support and protection,” said WGAE organizing coordinator Jesus Sanchez.

Announcement comes a week after WGA West prexy Victoria Riskin told members that expanding guild jurisdiction to the reality TV sector would be a major priority in upcoming negotiations with studios and nets. Current contract expires May 1, 2004.

Riskin also accused the entertainment congloms of duplicitous behavior on the reality TV front, saying they form “doppelganger” companies with the sole purpose of avoiding WGA contracts. “It is simply not right that writers doing the same kind of work are denied the basic wages and protections the guild was founded to achieve 70 years ago,” she added.

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