WGA call to action

Verrone missive outlines focus on growth

WGA West president Patric Verrone, on the heels of a convincing election victory by his slate, has spelled out an ambitious agenda for his two-year term.

“Two weeks ago, the WGA West election made national news and for good reason,” Verrone said in a message sent Wednesday to the guild’s 8,000 members. “We, the Guild membership, sent a powerful message to the creative community — that we want greater influence over our careers and we know what to do to get it.”

In Verrone’s first formal communication as president, he stressed the need to organize non-union areas as the best method to prep for negotiations with studios and nets in 2007, and promised that he’d work more closely with the other entertainment industry unions.

“In order to improve our collective bargaining leverage, we must grow our membership and increase our penetration in the writing workplace,” he noted.

There’s no mention in the missive of the WGA West board’s Sept. 27 firing of John McLean from the exec director slot, which stemmed partly from dissatisfaction over losses in guild-covered jobs (mostly to reality TV) plus failure to gain in DVD residuals and jurisdiction at last year’s negotiations.

Instead, the letter noted that director of organizing David Young’s been promoted to the post of interim exec director and has begun the process of beefing up staffing in the organizing department.

“This is the boldest step we could take to rebuild this union,” Verrone asserted.

He announced the guild’s planning a series of town hall meetings with the launch event on free rewrites. The WGA West will also bring back the membership directory online and in print.

In addition, Verrone said he and his fellow leaders have been communicating with SAG, DGA and AFTRA along with newly elected WGA East president Chris Albers. The Western and Eastern branches of the Writers Guild have been unable to resolve a financial dispute that erupted at the start of the year; Verrone said he and Albers are making plans for a meeting to find a solution.

Verrone concluded the letter with a pitch to members to become involved. “The atmosphere for our profession has never been more precarious,” he added.

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