Lengthy strike still looms large three years later

The 100-day Writers Guild of America strike of 2007-08 still looms large among candidates for the 10 two-year seats on the WGA East ruling council.

In statements posted this week on the WGA East website, several stressed that members need to brace themselves for another tough battle with the congloms. No negotiations have been set for a successor contract to the existing WGA pact, which expires May 1.

“If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in the years I’ve been active at the guild, it’s that none of the benefits we have — health, pension, minimums, working conditions — have been gotten without a fight,” noted incumbent Walter Bernstein. “The conglomerates that own our business are not our friends. They do not respond to making nice.”

Andrew Bergman wrote that he had served on the negotiating committee during the strike. “These are perilous times for writers, as are most times, but this time it’s worse. Allow me to help.”

Mail ballots will be sent this month to the 4,000 members of the WGA East, who can also vote at a Sept. 16 membership meeting. Results are usually announced the day after that meeting.

Many of the statements focused on new-media jurisdiction and compensation, the key strike issue.

“No union, no smart union anyway, strikes unless it has to,” said incumbent Jeremy Pikser. “And we had to. If for no other reason (and there were plenty) because they were trying to shut us out of Internet revenues, where everyone knows the lion’s share of future money is.”

Terry George (“Hotel Rwanda”) noted in his statement that his candidacy represents the first time he’s run for an elected office.

“So why now?” he said. “It’s because I am fearful for myself and for my family, for my fellow writers and for their families. I think that a ‘snake oil’ business culture now permeates the entertainment industry. We’ve gone from the Golden Age to the gutter in two decades and it’s time for the talent to take a stand.”

Incumbent Jerome Coopersmith wrote the strike prevented the companies from achieving their goal of no longer paying residuals to writers.

“But the companies never give up,” Coopersmith said. “Some of them are now downgrading the contract we achieved. They are saying that we obtained nothing. That is false. Thanks to the strike, we are firmly embedded in the new technologies no matter what shape they may take. When the scripts you are writing now are rerun digitally, you will see the checks rolling in. I call that victory.”

The 20 candidates for the six open freelance seats are: Bergman, Pikser, Bernstein, George, Coopersmith, Robert Levi, Israel Horovitz, David Steven Cohen, Tom Jennings, Leslie Nipkow, John Auerbach, Susane Lee, Elizabeth Page, Richard Vetere, Bernardo Ruiz, Gina Gionfriddo, Fred Graver, Richard Wesley, Julian Sheppard and Jenny Lumet.

Gionfriddo, Bernstein, Auerbach, Cohen, Coopersmith and Pikser are incumbents.

The nine candidates for the four open staff seats are David Keller, Cath Twohill, Ted Schreiber, Kathy McGee, Armando Norat, Brian Morgan, Marta Gibbons, Julia Yoler and Art Daley. Twohill and Daley are incumbents.

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