WGA leaders urge contract approval

Petrie Jr., Sargent support 'best deal', others still wary

As the Writers Guild of America prepares for a nationwide June 18 vote on its controversial new contract with producers, leaders of the guild are taking pains to persuade members to approve the pact regardless of misgivings they may have.

In a letter to writers across the country mailed along with a contract summary, WGA West president Daniel Petrie Jr. and WGA East prez Herb Sargent said the guild’s negotiating committee was “convinced that they had gotten the very best deal that they could get under the circumstances.”

The contract’s path to ratification was stymied in September when it was overturned by a narrow vote of the membership, primarily in the east. It then came back to the table essentially in the same form, although guild negotiators sought some modifications.

“Several members of the committee who opposed the last contract voted to recommend this one, not because they loved it, but because they saw it as the best they could get right now,” Sargent and Petrie wrote. “Other members of the committee, some of whom were vigorous supporters of the unratified contract, were proud to vote in favor of recommending this one, while at the same time sharing the disappointment of their fellow committee members that we couldn’t get still more.”

June balloting rules

The June 18 balloting will be the first contract ratification vote under new rules that require same-day voting and common voting materials to be mailed to members of both eastern and western guilds.

Members of either guild may submit pro or con statements on the proposed contract by noon on May 28. The statements will be mailed to all eligible voters. Members may vote by mail, in person at special meetings in Los Angeles and New York on June 18, or by proxy.

While there was much disagreement over voting rules and the contract itself between the hierarchies of the New York and Los Angeles guilds, the letter says the two sides “certainly agree on the following: That this contract does not contain everything writers deserve; that it’s much better for both guilds and our memberships to be working together to achieve our goals, rather than against each other.”

Sargent and Petrie wrote that the contract, “whatever its benefits or deficiencies, is a product of that joint effort.”

Still, opponents of the pact are not going away softly.

Board member protests

Ann Marcus, one of the three WGAW board members who voted against recommending the pact to the membership, said the revised pact is “the same weak and unsatisfactory contract that was rejected by the membership the first time around.”

Marcus said her disagreement was not with her fellow board members or with negotiators but with “top-heavy, bloated, overpaid executives and CEOs more interested in corporate profits, golden parachutes and creative bookkeeping than in serious negotiations.

“In our booming economy, fueled by a booming entertainment industry, it’s time management shared their financial rewards with the people responsible for creating, writing and making the product,” Marcus said. “No one likes this contract, not even those who are supporting it.”

The mailing sent to members this week contains not only a summary of the proposed contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and CBS, NBC and ABC, but reports by the negotiating committee majority and minority.

Results of the vote will be released on June 19.