WGA branches splinter anew

Financial dispute causes internal divide

The divide just got a little deeper at the Writers Guild of America, where a bitter dispute over finances is raging between the WGA East and WGA West.

The branches agreed last week to have former California Supreme Court justice Joseph Grodin mediate their dispute over finances. But a new spat emerged Tuesday, centered on WGA East president Herb Sargent’s accusation that WGA West prexy Daniel Petrie Jr. forged his signature.

Sargent said in a letter to Petrie that the latter had sent an unauthorized letter to Grodin that was presented as if jointly sent with Sargent’s signature.

“The letter was not written with me, sent by me or, most importantly, signed by me,” Sargent wrote. “Clearly, your credibility is damaged when such blatant disregard for the law is exercised. I expect to receive assurances from you and the WGA West that unauthorized use of my name and/or signature will never again occur.”

Sargent has also told WGA East members that Grodin has been dropped as a mediator and replaced by Barry Winograd. He cited the unauthorized nature of the letter and its proposal to launch the mediation within four to six weeks, which would conflict with the WGA East’s contract negotiations with networks.

Petrie sent out his own letter to WGA West members Tuesday in response, accusing the WGA East of stalling. He asserted the letter to Grodin was sent merely to ask about his availability after a week of waiting for permission to take that step from the WGA East; he also noted that Sargent’s signature had been provided previously for use in joint communications.

“Obviously, there are forces at WGA East who have no interest in writers from both sides getting together to try to resolve this dispute with the help of a mediator,” Petrie said. “It is particularly unfortunate, albeit revealing, that the forces of divisiveness are making their stand on mediation, since our goal is to improve relations with writers in WGA East, and mediation is designed, through constructive dialogue, to bring the parties together.”

The West is accusing the WGA East of cheating it out of more than $500,000 per year in dues by failing to observe provisions of the 51-year-old affiliation agreement that set up the two branches, plus another $500,000 annually in services it provides to WGA East members. The WGA East disputes the numbers and has accused the WGA West of union-busting.

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