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WGA’s Verrone seeks re-election

Guild president to run again in September

WGA West president Patric Verrone, whose two-year term has been marked by a far more assertive approach to negotiations, plans to seek re-election.

Verrone told Daily Variety that he’ll run if the WGA West nominating committee selects him next month but didn’t elaborate. Given that Verrone won the election in 2005 over Ted Elliott with 69% backing, it’s improbable that the panel — which usually nominates incumbents — would spurn Verrone’s offer.

No challenger has yet emerged for the election, which will take place in September and also feature contests for VP, secretary-treasurer and eight of the 16 board seats to rep the 9,000 members of the WGA West. After the nominating committee announces candidates in late June, other candidates will have until July 20 to qualify via petition.

The WGA East, based in Gotham, will also announce its candidates next month following its call for nominations to the 4,000 members of that branch of the guild. Current prexy Chris Albers hasn’t indicated if he’ll run again, two years after defeating Richard Wesley for the top slot.

The elections, which usually draw about 20% participation, will be closely watched by the entire industry since the contests will take place against the backdrop of what are expected to be contentious contract negotiations. Bargaining starts July 16; the WGA’s current three-year deal expires Oct. 31.

Two years ago, Verrone’s Writers United slate easily swept the WGA West election after campaigning on a platform highlighted by promises of organizing non-union work in reality, animation and cable; better relations with the WGA East; and better communications with members.

But the election of Verrone’s slate also reflected members’ frustration with negotiations in 2004, when the WGA couldn’t achieve its centerpiece goal of sweetening the DVD payout formula. And a week after Verrone ascended to the presidency, the board fired longtime exec director John McLean and replaced him with organizing chief David Young.

That led to more confrontational tactics and an increase in hostile rhetoric between the guild and lead industry negotiator Nick Counter during the run-up to negotiations. Some guild members have contended that the more assertive strategies carry the risk of marginalizing the WGA, but those policies received major support last fall when WGA West members backed all eight board candidates that Verrone had endorsed.

The only announced successes on the organizing front have been on two Comedy Central shows — “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” Verrone, an animation writer with credits on “Futurama,” “The Critic” and “The Simpsons,” has insisted that the focus on organizing is crucial to the future of showbiz writing by assuring that scribes have guild protections and benefits.

Verrone and Albers stressed last week, as part of the “pattern of demands” sent to members, that they’re most interested in making sure that writers are paid appropriately for Internet reuse and for work created specifically for the Web, cell phones and other digital platforms. Counter dismissed the WGA’s wish list as a nonstarter out of touch with the current realities of showbiz economics.

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