East, West agree on uniform standard

WGA members have agreed to impose uniform eligibility standards for the Hollywood-based WGA West and the Gotham-based WGA East for nationwide votes such as strike authorization and ratification of the feature-primetime contract.

The change, announced Wednesday in a message to WGA members, received 96% approval, with 1,720 yes votes and 67 no votes. There are about 8,000 WGA West members and 4,000 WGA East members.

The language specifies that to vote in a joint election, members must meet one of three eligibility standards — earnings of $30,000 under a WGA agreement during the six years preceding the vote; 15 or more qualified years as a pension plan participant; or employment under a staff news contract at the time of the vote.

Under the previous arrangement, eligibility for WGA East members was not restricted for voting in national elections. Membership in the Eastern branch requires that a writer be performing covered work.

WGA East spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said the change in rules would not significantly reduce the number of WGA East members eligible to vote in nationwide elections.

The agreement between leaders of the WGA West and WGA East was announced earlier this year. In addition to standardizing eligibility rules for WGA members to vote in nationwide elections, the two branches also agreed that the WGA East will have a guaranteed four members on the national bargaining committee; during the 2007-08 negotiations, the WGA East was repped by three while the WGA West had 17 reps.

The WGA East also said voting eligibility for individual guild elections remains unchanged.

Leaders of both branches have said the eligibility move was an outgrowth of the 2005 agreement between the two to work more closely together following a civil war that had broken out over the finances of the orgs.

“With the adoption of common voting standards, the codification of existing procedures regarding how joint East-West votes are conducted and the refinement of membership transfer rules, our two unions have made important advances in the many ways we work together,” said WGA West prexy Patric Verrone.

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