New York — In the wake of Monday’s NLRB-conducted election overwhelmingly supporting IATSE representation by employees of “ America’s Next Top Model,” IA President Thomas C. Short has accused the leadership of the Writers Guild of America West of irresponsibility and incompetence in their refusal to meet with the AMPTP and begin negotiations on a new contract in January as they themselves proposed. The WGA contract expires Oct. 31, 2007. Early talks would have shown willingness on the part of the WGA to avoid a work stoppage that will almost certainly result from delayed talks.
The Writers Guild attempted to organize employees at “ America’s Next Top Model,” but were unsuccessful in their efforts. Those efforts were, according to Short, “mishandled due to zero experience at organizing in the entertainment industry.” This inexperience, coupled with what Short sees as arrogance on the part of WGA President Patric Verrone and Executive Director David Young, will force studios and the networks to stockpile projects and result in a de facto strike next summer, affecting over 100,000 IA members and ancillary businesses nationwide. “IA working families will not only lose their livelihoods,” Short said, “but the work hours necessary to keep them eligible for health insurance, pensions, and other IA benefits.”
A similar situation arose in 2001, when writers and actors refused to schedule early contract talks. Fearing a work stoppage, studios and networks ramped up production to such a degree that when the contracts were negotiated and strikes averted, there was so much product waiting release that no new production started for months, keeping thousands of workers idle, some for over a year.
In an attempt to ameliorate the situation, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, President Short made a personal phone call to Verrone, asking that he reconsider the timing of negotiations and return to the WGA’s original offer of January talks. According to Short, Verrone refused.
Short said, “The fact that the WGA backed out of their own proposed talks shows their complete and utter disregard for the vast majority of motion picture and television workers in the entertainment industry. A small faction inside the WGA is determined to undermine the health and welfare of an entire industry.”
The most recent three-year IATSE Hollywood Basic Agreement went into effect on August 1, 2006, and was negotiated eight months before its expiration.