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Composers in tune at WGA

Group includes 900 unrepresented potential members

With little fanfare, the Writers Guild of America West has launched an organizing drive among Hollywood’s music composers.

The WGA West hasn’t made an official announcement about the push, but a guild spokesman said several organzing meetings have taken place recently. With an estimated 900 unrepresented potential members, composers are among the largest non-unionized groups in Hollywood.

One key issue for composers of film and TV music is “work for hire” contracts. Under such agreements, the employer usually owns all rights to the music.

Musicians working on film and TV are often repped by either the American Federation of Musicians or the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Move by the WGA West to organize composers has come six months after a slate led by Patric Verrone won the guild elections on a platform of taking a more aggressive course in bargaining and organizing. Since then, the WGAW has quadrupled the size of its organizing department to more than a dozen employees.

The guild’s major organizing effort has been in the reality TV arena, obtaining over 1,000 signed authorization cards from writers, producers and editors who work on the shows and want to be repped by the WGA West. Guild also assisted in last year’s filing of two lawsuits — since consolidated into one — filed by reality show writers alleging violations of labor laws on overtime, wages and meal periods.

Foley artists and casting directors are the most recent groups to be organized successfully in Hollywood. The foley artists were included for the first time under the new Hollywood Basic Agreement ratified last month by the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; after three years of organizing, casting directors and associates officially entered into their first contract with studios and nets earlier this year as part of the Intl. Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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