Writers Guild West Members Vote to Authorize Strike

Contract With Producers Expires Oct. 31

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- With the largest voter turnout in the history of the union, the Writers Guild of America, West reported late Friday afternoon that nearly 5,000 ballots had been cast by its members, delaying by several hours the announcement most of Hollywood assumed was a foregone conclusion: 91.3% of WGA members voted to authorize a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.

The WGA West and WGA East spent the last week conducting a vote among their collective 12,000 members, seeking authorization to call a strike against their corporate masters any time after their current contract with the alliance expires Oct. 31.

Earlier last week, the alliance announced it had withdrawn its proposal to restructure the venerable institution -– producers would say "antiquated" -- of residuals payments to writers.

Pay hike for new media content
By way of reaction, many scribes have groused that the "withdrawal" was always a red herring designed to obfuscate the elephant in the room: The guild wants a pay hike for content distributed over the internet or on other new media, such as video-enabled cellphones. Producers have so far only agreed to study the matter.

Said one manager of TV writers, "I always felt the residuals thing was bogus. Writers should have responded by saying, 'Oh, good; in that case, we're going to drop our demand to write in invisible ink.'"

In an Oct. 19 Los Angeles Times editorial penned by Nick Counter, the alliance's chief negotiator, Mr. Counter counseled patience despite weeks of mutual recriminations and PR broadsides.

"We don't see what a strike solves," wrote Mr. Counter. "The last WGA strike in 1988 lasted five months, and current estimates are that a similar stoppage could cost the industry -- and all whose livelihoods depends on it -- $3 billion. ... We are in a period of extraordinary technological change. The WGA is concerned about the future and doesn't want to get left behind; neither do we. At the same time, we don't want to give away the store by making uninformed decisions."

Bargaining is scheduled to resume today Los Angeles.
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