Michael Winship, president of Writers Guild of America East, sent the following New Year’s message to his membership. It had an unusually personal quality to it:
Fellow Members of the Writers Guild of America, East:
A very Happy New Year to you all. In spite of our current turmoil, I hope you’ve been able to find some time to enjoy and appreciate the holiday season with friends and loved ones.
I hit the wall the Friday before Christmas, momentarily overcome by frustration and annoyance. I think many, if not most of us, have done the same at various points during this strike.
What sustains me, and I hope you as well, is our nationwide unity and the surety that what we are striking for is right not only for us but so many others in the creative community – and that the fair and respectful contract we seek will serve as the template for many generations to come.
With the start of 2008 and the continuation of our strike come many new challenges and dilemmas. As you know, last week we reached a binding independent agreement with Worldwide Pants that will allow Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson to return to the air on January 2 with their full writing staffs. Worldwide Pants accepted the very same proposals, including new media, that the Guilds were prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7. As we said Friday, it demonstrates our eagerness to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously, a fair and reasonable deal can be quickly reached.
Other late night shows – The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live in Los Angeles, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien here in New York – also are returning Wednesday night, but without their striking writers. Leno, O’Brien and Kimmel are all members of the Guild and have been and continue to be extremely supportive of our strike and their writing staffs. For that we truly are grateful
Nonetheless, they are coming back without writers and without a new Guild contract, forced back on the air by companies that refuse to sit at the table and bargain with us. We cannot let that pass.
It’s a difficult and painful decision, but the Guilds East and West have determined that we will picket outside the studios of these programs, beginning January 2. We know that some believe this to be unfair and will be unhappy, but we are taking into consideration our overall strategy and the needs of all 10,500 of our members currently on strike.
Our picket will not be of the hosts themselves but the companies for which their shows are produced. Our purpose is to continue awareness of our strike and the media conglomerates against which we strike, and to encourage performers, politicians and others to honor our picket line and not appear as guests on these struck programs.
Nothing at all personal or defamatory is intended and we will take all measures to make sure the public and press are aware of our motives and issues.
If the companies want these shows to be back on the air with the writers whose creativity and talent make them so successful, the answer is simple. Bargain in good faith, negotiate, make a deal.
Thanks for your attention.
Writers Guild of America, East