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WGA East’s Council Asks Members To Authorize Strike

Deadline logo Deadline 3/29/2017 David Robb
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In the second of a one-two punch that puts the WGA further along the road to a threatened strike against the film and TV industry, the WGA East’s council voted tonight in New York to seek strike authorization from the guild’s members. The vote comes a day after the WGA West’s board voted in Los Angeles to seek the same authorization from its members.

The back-to-back votes were recommended unanimously by the WGA negotiating committee, which broke off contract talks with management’s AMPTP on Friday.

The WGA West said last night that the guild’s members will begin voting in April – online and at special membership meetings – to authorize the board and council to call a strike if future talks fail to produce a fair contract. That voting will be concluded by April 24 or 25 – a week before the May 1 expiration of the current film and TV contract.

Both labor and management have said they intend to return to the bargaining table after the strike-authorization vote is conducted. “Keeping the industry working is in everyone’s best interests, and we are ready to return to negotiations when they are,” management’s AMPTP said after talks broke off Friday.

“We are committed to continue negotiating with the companies in good faith to get you the deal we all deserve,” WGA leaders told their members Friday night.

“The WGA broke off negotiations at an early stage in the process in order to secure a strike vote rather than directing its efforts at reaching an agreement at the bargaining table,” the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television said after talks collapsed Friday.

The WGA blamed the companies for rejecting virtually every one of their proposals to improve the lot of film and TV writers and to rescue the guilds’ failing health plan, which is facing insolvency at current levels of income and expenditures. After two weeks of bargaining, the WGA said, “The companies’ proposal has barely a single hard-dollar gain for writers.”

Clearly, if that doesn’t change, there will be a strike.

The AMPTP took a similarly hard stance at the bargaining table three years ago during the WGA’s last round of contract negotiations, but eventually modified its positions and came to terms for a deal that would go on to be unanimously recommended by the guilds’ leadership, and overwhelmingly ratified by the guilds’ members.

“The fact that this agreement was reached without a strike does not mean that it was without struggle,” the guilds told their members three years ago. “You will recall that we wrote you in late January to alert the membership to the fact that the companies had placed $60 million in rollbacks on the table, mostly in the areas of pension and health benefits. Not only were we able to force those rollbacks off the table, we achieved groundbreaking regulation of options and exclusivity agreements, an issue of critical importance to many television writers.”

Those negotiations three years ago, however, started five weeks earlier than this year’s talks, and because of the late start this time around, the two sides have found themselves with only one week to work out their differences before the May 1 deadline, which can be extended if progress is being made.

And the deal three years ago was reached without the guilds having to resort to a strike-authorization vote of their members, which was true of the 2011 contract negotiation as well. The last time the guilds asked their members for strike authority was in 2007 – and that resulted in a 100-day strike.

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