A Letter from WGA President Patric Verone…

Hey, folks–

Hot off the press, here’s a letter from WGA president Patric Verone… thought you might find it interesting…


May 29, 2009             

To My Fellow Members,

It’s
been a while since I’ve reported to you about the progress of Writers
Guild
organizing efforts and the many successes we’ve had in the past
two years.  Organizing writers who work without a WGA contract is one
of the key ways we strengthen the Guild and protect the standards we
have all struggled so long and hard to achieve.
 
Our first
priority in organizing is always to defend our core jurisdiction:
network and cable dramas, sitcoms (including network primetime animated
sitcoms), longform television, talk shows, variety shows, game shows,
and live-action features.  Beginning with our current contract, our
jurisdiction now also includes original and derivative content in New
Media.  Our second priority is the expansion of our jurisdiction to
areas where we currently lack coverage or where non-signatory companies
have been operating, including reality television, non-primetime and
feature animation, and non-fiction.
 
With those priorities in mind, here is a recap of our recent efforts:
 
CABLE TELEVISION
 
In
cable we have focused on Comedy Central because it employs a large
number of writers. Working closely with writers on Comedy Central’s
main shows, we undertook a strategy of escalating actions, culminating
in a short work stoppage. One show at a time, we organized WGA coverage
for:
 
The Sarah Silverman Program
Mind of Mencia
The Showbiz Show with David Spade
American Body Shop
Root of All Evil
Chocolate News
Reno 911!
Michael & Michael Have Issues
Secret Girlfriends
The Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy
The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget
The Untitled Jeff Dunham Project
Tosh.0
Eddie Portnoy, Boy Producer
Ghosts/Aliens

 
We
continue to build on a positive relationship with the network and
recently signed an overall deal covering all future Comedy Central
roasts.  We hope to achieve a more comprehensive overall deal and are
currently engaged in efforts to cover all dramatic and comedy-variety
shows produced by Comedy Central.

Elsewhere in cable we have
organized and made deals for dramatic programs, quiz and audience
participation shows, non-dramatic, and documentary shows.  In all these
cases, the role of the writers in providing information and assistance,
and their willingness to refuse work if necessary were keys to
success.  Thanks to their efforts we now cover:
 
Tyler Perry’s House of Payne for TBS
Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns for TBS
The Cheech and Chong Roast for TBS
Match Game for TBS
The Singing Bee for CMT
Secrets of the Founding Fathers for the History Channel
Spontaneous Human Combustion for the Discovery Channel
The Tunguska Event for the Discovery Channel
Animal Armageddon for Animal Planet

NETWORK TELEVISION

 
Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?
 
Last
year we signed a WGA deal for this primetime hit game show.  Recently
we also negotiated a deal to cover the syndicated version of the show.
 
Sit Down, Shut Up
 
We
assisted the writers of this Sony primetime animated series in a work
stoppage aimed at getting WGA coverage.  To resolve the dispute, the
company offered each of the writers six-figure “blind pilot” deals
covered by the WGA and standard WGA terms for their work on the series,
although the series (now canceled) nominally remained under an IATSE
contract.
 
The Osbournes: Loud and Dangerous

 
Despite
overwhelming coverage of the network primetime writing work force,
writers have still had to struggle for WGA contracts on occasion.  One
of the essential ways members can protect Guild benefits is by refusing
to work for non-signatory companies. Working Rule 8 states: “No member
shall accept employment with, nor option or sell literary material to,
any person, firm or corporation who is not signatory to the applicable
MBAs.” This rule is designed to ensure that the only way entertainment
companies can have access to Guild talent is through a Guild deal.
 
We
invoked Working Rule 8 on the Osbournes program after the production
company, FremantleMedia, refused to negotiate a fair deal.  Guild
members heeded the call and refused to write for this non-guild show,
which would have been the first non-WGA comedy-variety show in
primetime broadcast TV.  To date, only one episode has aired, to
extremely poor reviews and bad ratings.  The remaining episodes may
well never be aired.  We believe that the failure of this show is a
direct result of the company not being able to use Guild writers
 
NEW MEDIA
 
The
Guild organized and made deals with 26 companies that have become
signatory to the WGA MBA for the express purpose of producing New Media
content.  Web programming produced by these companies includes:
 
Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy
Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
Woke Up Dead
In the Motherhood
1,000 Days
Wainy Days
Back on Topps
Web Therapy

 
We have also signed contracts for Internet content from New Media production companies Machinima.com and Science + Fiction.
 
VIDEOGAMES
 
We
have signed 44 interactive agreements to provide WGA members with
pension and health benefits for their work on videogames. Our most
recent deals are for Battle CMT and Project 9.
 
FEATURE FILMS

 
In
the past 18 months we made deals to cover several high-profile feature
films, including Into the Wild and Frozen River.  Since the beginning
of last year, we have made deals to cover 15 low-budget films:
 
Assisting Venus
The Blue Tooth Virgin
Bob’s New Suit
Children of Invention
Exporting Raymond
Father vs. Son
Herpes Boy
The Red Queen
The Scenesters
Strictly Sexual
The Two Bobs
The Undying
Women in Trouble

FOREIGN PRODUCED PROJECTS
 
In
the area of foreign-produced projects employing WGA members, we have
secured WGA deals for Noah’s Ark (an animated feature), The 99 and
Bommi & Friends (animated TV series), and Poirot (a live-action
series).
 
REALITY TELEVISION

 
In reality television, we
have pressured the networks and production companies through strikes at
America’s Next Top Model and the FremantleMedia game show Temptation
In both cases writers walked off their jobs to protest the companies’
refusal to negotiate WGA coverage.
 
We pressured the entire
reality industry through public exposure of the serious labor law
violations by reality television production companies.  We conducted a
focused exposure of the most important production company,
FremantleMedia, the producers of American Idol, with the “American Idol
Truth Tour.

 
As awareness of the abuses against workers in
reality TV grows so does the number of workers willing to take action. 
Last month a group of FremantleMedia workers independently filed a
multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against the company for its
violations of California’s wage and hour laws. Two lawsuits brought by
writers against Next Entertainment and Rocket Science Entertainment are
in the process of settling for $4.5 million dollars.
 
ORGANIZING THE FUTURE

 
Defending
and expanding our jurisdiction do not take place in a vacuum. The gains
won as a result of our 100-day strike have helped change the
environment in which we undertake our organizing efforts, and as this
report reflects, we are making steady progress getting companies to
agree to WGA coverage of their projects.
 
The Organizing and
Jurisdiction Department
has primary staff responsibility for external
organizing, but every department of the Guild has participated in and
deserves credit for our organizing successes. None of it, however,
would have been possible without the support and sacrifices of you, our
members.  I would like to personally thank all the brave, committed,
and hard working writers who helped with these efforts. Because of you
we are all stronger and better off.
 
The organizing struggle is
far from over and there is much important work left to be done.  I know
the Guild can count on your support and assistance in this crucial
effort.
 
Best,
 
Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW

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