UPDATE: Federal Mediator Intervenes
The Writers Guild Of America’s 12,000 membership will begin picketing at the major movie studios and television networks later in the day Monday. They were told that all writing covered under WGA agreements must cease when the strike starts. No last-minute talks to avert the crippling walkout are yet scheduled for this weekend after three months of negotiations collapsed Wednesday night. The Writers Guild Of America said it was open to the offer of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to help settle the stand-off with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Some of Hollywood’s Big Media moguls may be trying to meet this weekend about the WGA strike set to start Monday. But insiders tell me that the studio and network bigwigs have declined Villaraigosa’s offer to mediate this weekend despite the WGA’s desire for him to intervene. The moguls also rejected an offer to sit down with the guild’s leadership this weekend. “The CEOs are unwilling to even join the discussion at the bargaining table at all this weekend or ever,” one WGA source maintains. “The only meeting they are willing to attend is one amongst themselves.” (See my previous, Hollywood Moguls Sound Strike Happy, See New TV Season As Dead Already.) UPDATE: I’ve just learned that the federal mediator has called the parties together for a meeting on Sunday at 10 am.
Instead, I’m told the moguls will continue to rely on their hired guns, namely AMPTP president Nick Counter, to maintain their hardline bargaining position, just as the WGA is sticking with its militant negotiators. Though the AMPTP said yesterday it was willing to negotiate all weekend, there looks to be no real possibility of a miraculous last-minute settlement happening now even though both sides are giving lip service to one. Agreed WGAE President Michael Winship: “This is not a decision we take lightly. In fact, we make it with great sadness. There is still time and a deal to be made before this strike begins. We urge the studios and networks to come back and bargain fairly.” But AMPTP’s Nick Counter issued this statement after today’s strike call. “We are very disappointed with their press conference and the action they took,” Counter said. “Their press conference was full of falsehoods, misstatements and inaccuracies.”
WGA West and East at 1:30 p.m. today announced the unanimous decision of the WGAW Board of Directors and the WGAE Council on the WGA Negotiating Committee’s recommendation to call a strike against film studios and television networks. Making today’s statement was WGAW Prez Patric Verrone and WGAE Prez Michael Winship. The collective bargaining agreement between the WGA and AMPTP expired at midnight on October 31st. Everyone I’ve talked to on both sides believes this is going to be a long, bitter and painful labor action. The producers want to redraw the business plan for movies and television. The writers want to draw a line in the sand after failing to make lucrative agreements for each new technology. The main issues dividing the two camps is New Media and Internet residuals. The last WGA strike, in 1988, lasted 22 weeks and cost the Industry half a billion dollars.
There will be a WGA contract captains orientation Saturday to help them transition into strike captains and picket captains. They have planned to be on call all weekend. The writers, many of whom yesterday cleared out their desks at the studios and networks, have 4 days from the commencement of the strike to submit their screenplays and teleplays to the WGA’s controversial “Script Validation Program”. (See my previous, Rename It The ‘Fear Validation Program’) The guild’s email to members said, “We’ll be sending you information about our picket lines. Come out and show your solidarity. Your Contract Captain will be in touch with you. Be prepared to serve.”
How many picket lines and how strong a turnout the WGA can organize will be key to this strike because of the Screen Actors Guild and the teamsters. Even though the actors’ contract with AMPTP doesn’t expire until June 2008. SAG president Alan Rosenberg told the WGA members last night that the actors guild cannot strike now but supports the WGA “100%” and will walk the picket lines with the writers. Meanwhile, Leo Reed’s “Hollywood” Teamsters — aka the Motion Picture and Theatrical Trade Local 399 which reps over 4,800 studio drivers, casting directors and location managers — urged members to honor the WGA’s picket lines. At last night WGA confab, a Teamsters statement was posted on the doors. It specifically stated the Teamsters support for the WGA and noted individual members have the right, through the “conscience clause” in the Teamsters contract, not to cross WGA picket lines.