The WGA strike has not yet run out of steam — even at the 13-week mark.
Despite rumors that the work stoppage may be ending soon, about 1,000 members and supporters — many from SAG — showed up outside Fox Studios on Monday for a Unity Day rally and picket to highlight the support between the guilds.
And in another show of inter-union support, the WGA announced Monday that it’s granted the Grammys an interim agreement, meaning WGA writers can work on the Feb. 10 kudocast.
Speculation about a conclusion to the strike is fueled by last week’s launch of informal talks between WGA leaders and moguls to restart formal negotiations, coupled with the guild’s move to ditch its reality and animation proposals. Also adding fuel to the end-of-strike flames — pressure by WGA members, particularly showrunners, for a tentative deal to close in time to salvage this year’s season by shooting a few more episodes of stalled shows plus a few pilots.
Rumors have emerged about the possibility of the WGA allowing members to return to work prior to ratification of a tentative deal — although that scenario may well rate as wishful thinking.
Both the WGA and the studios continued to observe the news blackout Monday, but informed sources asserted the sides probably will need at least another week to hammer out a deal with contract language. And others familiar with the discussions warned there’s no guarantee that the talks will lead to a deal.
SAG — the WGA’s strongest supporter along with the Teamsters — estimated that about 500 members showed up at Fox on Monday.
“We have to be here for the writers since we’re going to need their support later this year,” said Steve Barr, a SAG Hollywood board member. No talks have been set for SAG’s film-TV contract, which expires June 30.
The half-hour rally at Fox featured SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg, who spoke from a small platform in front of the studio, and stressed the need for better terms in new media. He asserted that the 1985 deal establishing what’s viewed by the guilds as a discounted homevid residual formula has caused a cumulative loss of $1.5 billion for WGA members and $4.5 billion for SAG members since then.
“We are not going to let that happen again on new media,” he declared. The WGA demanded a doubling of the DVD residual rate at negotiations, then dropped the proposal on the day before the strike.
Rosenberg also praised the WGA leadership for not automatically accepting the terms of the recent deal made by the Directors Guild of America — which has touted gains in new-media areas such as jurisdiction over material made for the Internet, residuals for streamed programs and access to company data. And he noted SAG will face similar decisions as its current contract nears its expiration.
“We’ll be counting on your support come June,” Rosenberg told the picketers.
Thesp Zachary Quinto, who plays Spock in the new “Star Trek” pic, and SAG national board members Anne-Marie Johnson and Susan Savage made brief speeches thanking the WGA for its efforts. And Larry Miller, who belongs to both guilds, praised Rosenberg and WGA West prexy Patric Verrone for deepening the alliance between the guilds over the past three years.
WGA leaders, who asked members last week to cool down their rhetoric during the talks with moguls, did not speak at the rally.
Monday’s event offered contrasts with Rosenberg’s last appearance at a rally outside Fox. The Nov. 9 event drew an estimated 4,000 supporters and featured a musical performance by Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine plus fiery speeches by Rosenberg, Verrone, exec director David Young and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane.
“We’re shutting down production and kicking corporate ass,” Verrone declared to massive cheers at that rally.
The WGA also announced Monday it had granted a waiver to the Grammys — not a surprising development, given last week’s move by the guild to back off plans to picket the Feb. 10 show.
The WGA’s refusal to grant a waiver for the Jan. 13 Golden Globes forced organizers to reduce the event to a news conference after all the nominees in acting categories vowed not to cross the WGA picket line. The WGA West has called off its own Feb. 9 awards show, and the fate of the Feb. 24 Oscarcast remains muddled, with WGA indicating it will picket if it doesn’t have a deal in place by then — meaning that SAG members would be unlikely to attend.
During his remarks at Sunday’s SAG Awards, Rosenberg made a special introduction of Verrone — generating a round of applause. And Daniel Day-Lewis and Julie Christie, after winning the top acting trophies Sunday, both indicated they would not cross a WGA picket line to attend the Oscars.
Verrone, in a statement Monday, indicated that the Grammys waiver stemmed from a desire to foster inter-union solidarity.
“Professional musicians face many of the same issues that we do concerning fair compensation for the use of their work in new media,” he said. “In the interest of advancing our goal of achieving a fair contract, the WGAW board felt that this decision should be made on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.”