48-page document stresses unity in election

Coming amid contract negotiations with the studios and networks, the upcoming WGA West election might, ironically, be light on controversy — a sharp contrast vs. two years ago, when current president Patric Verrone’s New WGA slate gained control of the board.

A 48-page booklet of candidate statements sent to 9,000 members in recent days contains only mild criticism of the current elected leadership and stresses the need to present a united front. In fact, there’s only one slate campaigning for the three officer and eight board slots: Writers United, led by Verrone.

Two years ago, Verrone’s roster won a hotly contested campaign against the Common Sense slate, headed by Ted Elliot. Verrone’s slate promised a tougher bargaining posture and pledged to beef up efforts to organize nonunion work in reality, animation and cable.

Verrone’s new opponent, newswriter and board member Kathy Kiernan, said in her statement that she was running to better represent writers outside the traditional areas of screen and TV writing. “I’m so encouraged that writers of different genres are more aware and supportive of one another than I’ve ever seen in my 25 years as a member,” she wrote.

Walter Halsey Davis, who’s opposing David N. Weiss for the VP slot, urged members to support Guild leaders and be willing to go on strike.

“We have to be unified,” he added. “Those among us who make noises about breaking ranks do a great disservice to all writers as well as themselves. It is that very flailing in the water that draws the sharks.”

Board candidate Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal, even though not part of the Writers United slate, said she supported it: “I can’t offer anything different than the slate. I support them. I agree with them. This is what I offer: I know the history of this struggle. I’ve been part of it. And I care.”

The harshest comments came from board incumbent Howard Rodman, who wrote, “There seems to be no end of the rapacity of the conglomerates. Without a Guild that fights for us — without a Guild that fights for us effectively — all we’re left with is our self-pity (which is, truly, the black lung of our profession).”

The election’s certain to be closely followed by the companies for indications of the level of support Verrone and his allies receive. The contest usually draw roughly 20% participation from the 9,000 members; results will be announced Sept. 18.

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