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WGA reveals fi-core writers

Disclosure made in a letter

In an angry post-strike blast, the WGA has publicly identified 28 writers — most of them working on soap operas — who resigned from the guild during the work stoppage by filing for financial core status.

The list includes several winners of daytime Emmys — Paula Cwikly (“The Young and the Restless,” “As the World Turns”), Hogan Sheffer (“Days of Our Lives,” “As the World Turns), Barbara J. Esensten (“The Guiding Light”), Dena Higley (“One Life to Live”) and John F. Smith (“The Young and the Restless,” “The Bold and the Beautiful”). Cwikly, Sheffer and Smith have also won WGA Awards.

The disclosure came Friday in a letter to members from WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East prexy Michael Winship, who opened the letter by citing the high level of compliance with strike rules among the 10,500 WGA members.

“Yet among the many there were a puny few who chose to do otherwise, who consciously and selfishly decided to place their own narrow interests over the greater good,” Verrone and Winship wrote. “This handful of members who went financial core, resigning from the union yet continuing to receive the benefits of a union contract, must be held at arm’s length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are — strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for which we fought so hard at risk.”

By going fi-core, writers withhold the portion of dues spent by the WGA on noncontract activities — while still being able to write scripts. Fi-core writers pay dues that are 1.9% less than regular members; they also can’t run for guild office or vote on contracts or in any WGA election.

The presidents started the letter by noting the sacrifice of members.

“During our 100-day strike, the extraordinary solidarity you demonstrated on the picket lines and the courage and dedication with which you committed yourselves to our cause were not only an inspiration but also the key to making our actions successful,” Verrone and Winship wrote. “In the face of enormous personal and financial hardship on the part of many, you sacrificed in the knowledge that your refusal to work would reap benefits not only for yourselves but countless others in the creative community, now and in the future. Your stalwart resolve paid off.”

The presidents also noted that many of those who went fi-core collected salaries during the strike.

“Without concern for their colleagues, they turned their backs and tossed the burden of collective action onto the rest of us, taking jobs, reducing our leverage and damaging the guilds for their own advantage,” the duo said. “Even in cases of deep financial distress, there were other options, including generous no-interest loans from our strike funds, which would have sustained them until the end of the strike and beyond. That’s what unions are for. Those who went financial core did not share in the adversity and should not share in our victory.”

Verrone and Winship included a link in the letter to the WGA West website where the names were posted. The seven names for the WGA East were contained in a part of its site available only to members.

Writer-director John Ridley (“Three Kings”), who disclosed he had gone fi-core in the middle of the strike, is among the best-known names.

Listed for the WGA West: Maria Arena, Marlene Poulter Clark, John F. Cosgrove, Cwikly, Esensten, Jeanne M. Grunwell, Dena Higley, Mark Christopher Higley, Meg Kelly, Michelle Poteet Lisanti, Terry A. Meuer, Shawn Morrison, James E. Reilly, Ridley, Sheffer, John F. Smith, Darrell R. Thomas Jr., Gary Tomlin, Janine Vogelaar and Garin Wolf.

Listed for the WGA East: Priscilla Kay Alden, James Harmon Brown, Michael Conforti, Victor Gialanella, Josh Griffith, Frances Myers and Pete T. Rich.

Announcement comes two weeks after the disclosure that George Clooney had also gone fi-core last fall prior to the strike as a result of the WGA’s decision in a credit arbitration vote that Clooney would not get screen credit on “Leatherheads” (Daily Variety, April 4). Clooney didn’t appeal the WGA ruling and kept his action quiet because he didn’t want the filing seen as his having split ranks with the union over the labor dispute.

After the five-month 1988 strike, the WGA did not disclose the names of members — believed to be fewer than five — who had gone fi-core.

The sudser defections during the 2007-08 WGA strike — first reported in the early days of the work stoppage (Daily Variety, Nov. 13) — appear at this point to be very much the exception. The guild has yet to make any announcement as to other strikebreaking; WGA East rep Sherry Goldman said Friday that the process of investigation is continuing but would not elaborate.

When the strike rules were issued in October, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers responded with information on its Web site showing how to go fi-core and pointing out that WGA members who take that step can’t be disciplined for working during a strike.

The recent announcement generated a large number of posting at the Writer Action website, which is restricted to WGA members, with some characterizing the decision to go public with the names as a blacklisting tactic while others endorsed the move as a necessary component of union discipline.

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