The majors and the WGA have gone back to the mat, with the companies filing an unfair labor practices charge against the guild for naming the 28 writers who filed for financial core status during the strike.
The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers disclosed the filing with the Natl. Labor Relations Board on Tuesday afternoon, asserting that last week’s missive from WGA West president Patric Verrone and WGA East prexy Michael Winship violated federal law.
The WGA responded by saying the charges are “baseless and represent an intrusion by the studios into an internal union matter.”
The AMPTP took issue specificially with the portion of the letter that urged WGA members to shun the fi-core members. “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,” Verrone and Winship wrote.
The AMPTP noted that the writers are within their legal rights to elect financial core status.
“As such, they are entitled to full coverage under the WGA’s collective bargaining agreement, including the same wages, residuals, health and pension benefits and protections afforded to all members,” the AMPTP said. “By publicly naming names and encouraging people who have the power to hire writers to keep them ‘at arm’s length,’ and saying they must be ‘judged accountable,’ it is clear the WGA leadership is seeking to deny employment to these writers in the future. That is a direct violation of federal labor law, and as the employers of those writers, we have a responsibility to defend them and the rule of law in this case.”
But in its response, the WGA noted it’s well aware that fi-core writers are entitled to all of the benefits of the new union contract.
“That fact — a requirement of federal labor law — is part of the reason why the resignations were ethically wrong,” the guild said. “Contrary to the studios’ claim, the Guild has not encouraged anyone to refuse to hire a resigned former member.”
The WGA also contended that it was appropriate to disclose the names of the 28 writers — most of them working on soap operas. It also said going fi-core is a public act that carries impact on other WGA members.
“It is not a private act, because it directly affects the livelihood of all guild members, especially during a strike,” the WGA said. “Accordingly, the guild leadership believes that it was appropriate to inform all members of the actions of these former members.
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 1.9% less in dues than regular members; they also can’t run for guild office or vote on contracts or in any WGA election.
When the strike rules were issued in October, the AMPTP responded with information on its website 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 guild has yet to make any announcement as to other strikebreaking beyond saying that the process of investigation is continuing.
Jonathan Handel, an attorney with TroyGould who’s a former WGA counsel, told Daily Variety that the Verrone-Winship letter — which he called “punitive and infantile” — would probably receive an extensive review at the NLRB.
“The key aspect that the letter raises is whether the WGA is still legally fulfilling its duty of fair representation to the members who went fi-core,” Handel said. “At best, the guild’s skating very close to that line.”