WGA West exec director issues statement

WGA West exec director David Young has issued a strong defense of the writers strike and gone on record as supporting SAG’s demand that its next contract end in 2011, not 2012.

“There is a concerted effort under way by the AMPTP and some in the press to minimize the success of our strike, calling it ‘unnecessary’ and ‘self-destructive,’” Young said in the WGA West’s latest member newsletter. “I’d like to set the record straight.”

Young said the companies forced the WGA into the 100-day work stoppage and the strike was marked by a “high” degree of unity among writers. “We didn’t achieve everything we wanted — we never do — but we achieved our most important objectives, something we hadn’t done for decades,” he added.

As he has previously, Young singled out the key gains in the pact:

  • Jurisdiction over original new-media production;

  • Residuals for reuse of traditional TV and film product on the Internet, enshrining the principle that “If they get paid, we get paid”;

  • Unprecedented access by the WGA and other guilds to the majors’ new-media contracts, allowing for a better understanding of the evolving marketplace.

Young also issued strong support for SAG, which is stuck in a stalemate with the companies over the expiration issue. The WGA’s contract expires on May 1, 2011, while SAG wants its next feature-primetime deal to expire on June 30, 2011, along with the DGA and AFTRA; the companies are insisting on a full three-year deal, meaning it would expire at least a year after the WGA’s.

“We salute SAG’s current effort to resist the AMPTP pushing their expiration date back to June of 2012,” Young said. “The AMPTP is determined to continue their time-tested strategy of ‘divide and conquer.’ We are determined to end that practice by building the unity of the entertainment unions on the basis of our common interests. We are doing everything we possibly can to hasten the day when, like the companies, multiple entertainment unions can sit down and bargain as one.”

Young’s predecessor John McLean, who was fired in 2005 by the WGA West board, said several weeks ago the WGA contract was “a terrible deal” due to its shortcomings in new-media provisions such as the 17- and 24-day free streaming windows (Daily Variety, Feb. 11). McLean and Young also differ on the timing of the WGA strike, with McLean asserting that the WGA would have had more leverage had it waited for SAG’s contract to expire last summer.

Young admitted that the strike had been tough on the town.

“The strike meant a quarter of lost earnings, and then the economy went into a severe recession followed quickly by a collapse in the financial markets,” he said. “These events have caused hardship and loss of income for many people, and writers are no exception. But these difficulties don’t change the fact that writers together achieved gains that will stand the test of time.”

Young reminded the companies the WGA could strike, though he emphasized that he hopes there will be no need for another work stoppage. He said the WGA’s earned “a large measure of new respect” from the companies, adding that he’ll reach out to industry leaders and CEOs to lay the groundwork for the next deal.

“But make no mistake: Should the companies choose to test us, we’ll be prepared again,” Young said. “Unfortunately — and responsibility for this sits squarely on the shoulders of the companies — it seems every important advance made by entertainment unions, including pension and health, credits, residuals and jurisdiction over new media, has required a strike by either the WGA or SAG.”

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