East and West leadership agree on decision

In a move that imposes eligibility rules on the WGA East membership, leaders of the WGA West and the WGA East have reached agreement on joint standards for voting on nationwide issues such as strike authorizations.

“We believe that this agreement on joint voting standards is a milestone in East-West relations,” said a message sent Wednesday to members from WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East prez Michael Winship. “It shows that our unions can work cooperatively in a spirit of unity and willing compromise. And it assures members that in all negotiations or other actions their economic future will be decided by people who have a stake in a positive outcome for both guilds.” 

Details of the new standards were not immediately available, but the general thrust will be to impose work requirements on WGA East members, according to WGA East exec director Lowell Peterson. “The concept is that in order to vote, you have to have done a certain amount of work,” he added.

The WGA West rules require an aggregate of 24 work “units” over three years for admission, such as two units for a week of employment on a TV series or 24 units for a screenplay sale. Additionally, an initial membership lapses after seven years if the writer does not perform covered work within that period; after that, membership lapses after four years without covered work.

Peterson said that he doubted the change in rules would significantly reduce the number of WGA East members who are eligible to vote in nationwide elections.

The new standards — which have been approved by the WGA West board and the WGA East Council — will be sent out to WGA members for a vote in June. About 8,000 writers are members of the Hollywood-based WGA West and 4,000 are repped through the Gotham-based WGA East.

Peterson told Daily Variety the move was an outgrowth of the 2005 agreement between the two guilds to work more closely together, following a civil war that had broken out over the finances of the orgs. Verrone and Winship sounded the same note in their message, noting that the two guilds — which negotiate the feature-primetime contract jointly — had worked together effectively during the 2007-08 strike.

“Ultimately, the effectiveness of our guilds is the direct result of your support,” the duo said. “With it, we are rock solid, and for it, we are most grateful. We’re still all in this together.”

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