Guild sets strike authorization vote for Nov. 15

The Writers Guild of America may be on strike in two places at once next month.

The guild announced Monday that it has set a strike authorization vote for Nov. 15 and 16 for the 500 members who work for CBS News. Those writers have been working without a new contract for 2½ years, with no negotiations having taken place for almost a year.

The action was unanimously recommended by the WGA-CBS negotiating committee and authorized by the WGA East Council and WGA West board. Move comes four days after 90% of voting WGA members endorsed a strike authorization for their film-TV contract, which expires Oct. 31.

Move comes nearly a year after 99% of WGA-CBS members rejected CBS’ contract offer. The two sides last met in January, when CBS refused to put forth any new proposals, according to the WGA.

CBS declined to comment. The guild and CBS are at odds over the net seeking the right to combine newsrooms and consolidate the staffs of radio stations in Los Angeles and New York.

WGA East prez Michael Winship blasted CBS in a statement.

“For too long, CBS has taken the crowning legacy of Edward R. Murrow and his colleagues and cheapened it, increasingly turning the broadcast news medium into the mere ‘lights and wires in a box’ Murrow feared,” he said. “Part of that diminution of news quality is reflected in the network’s refusal to offer our dedicated, knowledgeable, hard-working members a fair and respectful contract.”

Voting will take place in person or by proxy at meetings in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15 and 16. The New York meeting will be held Nov. 15 at the WGA East offices; the Los Angeles meeting will be held on Nov. 15 at the WGA West offices.

The WGA said key elements in the rejected CBS offer included a two-tier wage package — TV and network radio members in one tier and local radio members in another — with no retroactive pay; the right to assign current WGA responsibilities to non-WGA employees; and the ability to merge or combine guild shops with non-guild units at WCBS-AM 880 and 1010 WINS in New York, and KNX and KFWB in Los Angeles.

The WGA-CBS agreement covers newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers, and researchers in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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