AFTRA, WGA bring talkshow hostess in battle

AFTRA and the WGA have gotten into a brawl over Ellen DeGeneres working during the writers strike.

In recent days, the tops execs for the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists and the WGA East have issued dueling statements and letters over DeGeneres opting to continue working on her daytime talker during the past week.

The inter-union brawl came into the open on Friday when the WGA East issued a press release blasting DeGeneres for continuing to perform comedy in violation of strike rules. ”Ellen said she loves and supports her writers, but her actions prove otherwise.”

The WGA East also took DeGenerses to task over the recent dog controversy: “We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn’t even stand by writers for more than one day – writers who have helped make her extremely successful.

AFTRA topper Kim Roberts Hedgpeth said, in a letter to WGA East chief Mona Mangan, that DeGeneres is required to work.

”As you know, AFTRA members such as Ms. DeGeneres who are working under the AFTRA Network TV Code (which covers The Ellen DeGeneres Show) are legally required by the no-strike clause of that contract to report to work and perform their AFTRA-covered responsibilities,” she wrote. ”Ms. DeGeneres, along with thousands of entertainment-industry workers represented by AFTRA and other unions who are bound by similar no-strike clauses, are also reporting to work as legally required.”

Hedgpeth also said it was inappropriate for the WGA to publicly blast DeGeneres in light of members of AFTRA supporting the strike on picket lines.

“If WGAE had concerns about the activities of this AFTRA member, we cannot fathom why we did not receive so much as a courtesy heads-up to discuss the situation and see what we could do to work together in support of WGA’s members,” Hedgpeth wrote. “An AFTRA member was made the target of an ad hominem attack in a news release without any of the communication between us consistent with professional and inter-union courtesy. At a time when all unions should be standing together, this stunning breach of basic inter-union courtesy is the kind of misstep that threatens to frustrate the solidarity of organized labor on a cause that we should all stand together, and stand up, for.”

Mangan responded in a letter to Hedgpeth which said she was sorry to learn that the WGA erred in not consulting AFTRA before releasing the statement about DeGeneres. “I assure you that we have great respect for AFTRA, its members and staff, and we are deeply grateful for the generous support of the many AFTRA members supporting our strike by withholding their services and/or joining our picket lines and rallies,” she said.

But Mangan also said DeGeneres is wrong. “Beyond any issue of membership, there is the obvious ethical issue, which is clearly present in Ms. DeGeneres’ decision to write and produce a show without writers in the face of an industrywide walkout by 12,000 writers.”

DeGeneres’ producers, Telepictures Prods., weighed in with a defense of DeGeneres. “Ellen has not done anything in violation of the Writer’s Guild of America agreement, or the WGA’s internal ‘Strike Rules.'”

“Telepictures Productions, through its distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, has contractual obligations to continue to deliver original programming to the 220 stations that carry the program.

We have asked Ellen to come back to work to fulfill her contractual Obligation, as host of the show, because without original programs the stations can move the show out of its time periods or ultimately hold the company in breach of contract. The company, in turn, expects Ellen not to breach her contract to host the show. We also wish to preserve the 135 jobs of the staff and the crew whose livelihoods depend on the show continuing. We regret the Writer’s Guild has chosen to strike and we wish for a quick resolution.”

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