With the Writers Guild of America West prepping for negotiations with studios and nets, the guild is losing its top contracts executive.
Assistant exec director Grace Reiner announced Friday she’ll ankle after more than two decades, leaving Dec. 1 to become VP for legal affairs at the Disney Channel.
The WGA, which described Reiner as its “expert” in contract enforcement and interpretation during the last four contract negotiations, hasn’t set a date to launch bargaining with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Its current three-year deal expires in October.
Fomer WGA West president Daniel Petrie Jr. called Reiner’s departure “tragic” in a lengthy posting on Web sites over the weekend. “As valuable as she’ll be to the Disney Channel,” he said, “her unique knowledge of the Minimum Basic Agreement, the most complex single labor-management agreement in (I believe) the United States, and the bargaining history that informs every clause in it, is just one of the many reasons she’s much more valuable to us.”
Reiner’s the latest in a string of exec departures from the WGA West, starting with former exec director John McLean, who was fired a year ago and replaced by organizing chief David Young after a slate led by Patric Verrone swept into office with promises to take a more aggressive stance on negotiations.
Petrie, who did not seek re-election, noted that since then, general counsel Marshall Goldberg and assistant exec director Cheryl Rhoden have been dismissed and assistant exec director Greg Bernstein departed. He said losing Reiner “is like losing a limb” and urged the WGA board of directors to prevent more execs from leaving.
“I sincerely hope that, as the board realizes that they were in the dark about the actions and inactions that caused this amputation, they will start looking at the causes of other departures,” Petrie added. “I hope they will prevent future departures. Our institutional memory is vanishing; we can’t afford to lose it altogether.”
Reiner joined the guild staff in 1983 as a law clerk in the guild’s legal department and became credits administrator in 1984. After a brief break in service in 1990-91, she rejoined as contracts administrator in 1991, and was promoted to director and then senior director of negotiations and policy planning.
“Grace’s longtime service to the guild, her many significant contributions, her diligence, her passion, and her steadfast pursuit of the best deal for our writers are much appreciated — and will be deeply missed,” Young said in a statement.