Race to president post begins

A month before ballots go out, the campaign for WGA West prexy has already turned nasty.

Elias Davis and John Wells, who last month declared their intentions to take over from Patric Verrone as president, have put their campaigns into high gear, respectively adopting platforms of aggression and moderation.

Both are looking to the future, with the contract that will expire in 2011, but they have differing views on whether the past should be repeated.

Their respective websites this weekend posted statements from the two and listed the slates of their campaigns.

Davis, the current secretary-treasurer, promises to continue the assertive WGA strategies employed during Verrone’s four years as president, which led to the bitter 100-day strike in 2007-08.

Davis issued a slap at Wells — one of the town’s most prominent TV producers — for being too close to the companies and not close enough to members.

“What doesn’t work is what we tried between 1988 and 2005 — a leadership that was disconnected from the membership,” Davis said. “When our leaders negotiated our contracts, they relied on their close relationships with the companies. The same misguided line of thinking led us to hire an executive director, John McLean, who had spent over 20 years working for the companies.”

On the other hand, Wells, who was the key player in avoiding a strike in 2001, is pledging pragmatism.

“You may hear from some in our current leadership that we have never gained anything of value without striking,” Wells said. “This simply isn’t true.”

Davis defended the 2005 move to fire McLean, who was replaced by organizing director David Young.

“Our leadership’s strategy only gained us a long slow slide into irrelevance and impotence,” he added. “That all changed in 2005. Here’s what has worked since: ending unproductive backroom diplomacy and letting the will of the membership lead the way.”

Ballots to the 8,000 WGA West members go out Aug. 26. Results will be announced Sept. 18.

The launches of the campaigns came Friday as the WGA West announced a list of 23 candidates for 11 slots — president, VP, secretary-treasurer and eight board seats.

Verrone’s Writers United slate has dominated WGA West politics since 2005, and Davis made it clear that he’s committed to the same assertive approach through expanding jurisdiction, building a political base in Washington, working with other unions and “insisting on respect.”

Wells is emphasizing contract enforcement and shifting resources away from organizing reality shows. He criticized WGA leaders for not working for better relations with the DGA and aligning the May 2011 contract expiration with that of the “unstable” Screen Actors Guild, whose pact has a June 30, 2011, expiration.

Wells also said it’s been a mistake for WGA leaders to blast management.

“There’s a huge difference between being cordial with management and being beholden to management,” he said. “I believe strong, principled, relationships with the people we negotiate with leads to better deals for writers. Vilifying those across the table may feel good, but it’s bad business for us, just as they discovered vilifying writers was bad business for them.”

Both Davis and Wells endorsed Verrone — who’s termed out as president after four years — in a run for the board.

Wells’ slate includes board member Howard Michael Gould for VP and Chris Keysor for secretary-treasurer. He also endorsed Mick Betancourt, Ian Deitchman, Jeff Lowell and Steven Schwartz for the board and pronounced six others “excellent candidates” for the board — incumbents Dan Wilcox and Howard Rodman along with Carl Eastlake, Billy Ray, Chip Johannessen and Lynn Burstyn.

Davis’ running mates are board member Tom Schulman for VP and David Weiss for secretary-treasurer. And he also recommended Verrone, Rodman, Wilcox, Burstyn, Eastlake, Johannessen and Ray along with Jan Oxenberg, Luvh Rakhe, Eric Wallace, Jed Weintrob and David Wyatt.

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