WGA's ex-Teamster strike leaders call it quits

The heads of the striking Writers Guild of America urged members to end their crippling three-month strike yesterday after reaching a tentative deal with the Hollywood studios.

"Continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks...The time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike," the guild's presidents said in a letter.

The union leadership explained details of the proposed contract to members on both coasts yesterday. The 12,000 rank-and-file members could return to work tomorrow if they support the agreement.

"I'm hoping for a deal," said Mark St. Germain, 53, a former writer for "The Cosby Show" as he arrived for the WGA East session in Manhattan.

"Everybody wants to go back to work under the right circumstances," St. Germain added.

Oscar-nominated WGA member Michael Moore said the strike was already a success because the writers stood up to the powerful studios.

"I would expect it from the steelworkers or the auto workers," Moore said. "The fact that it was a bunch of people that got beat up at school because they liked to sit and write in their journals is kind of impressive.... This is a great moment for organized labor in this country."

Also at yesterday's meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Broadway were writers Nick Pileggi ("Casino" and "GoodFellas") and Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle"), among many others.

The walkout has idled thousands of actors, crew members and others, inflicted a $1 billion hit on the Los Angeles County economy, and forced weeks of reruns for hits like "Desperate Housewives" and "24."

It also put picket signs in the hands of celebrity writers such as "30 Rock" star Tina Fey and Seth Meyers of "Saturday Night Live."

The crux of the dispute between the writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was residuals for work distributed on the Internet. Under the proposed deal, the union will now receive:

- A fixed residual of $1,200 a year for one-hour shows streamed online, with an additional bump of 2% from the distributor's gross on the show in the third year of the contract.

- Jurisdiction over certain projects created specifically for the Internet, and increased residuals for downloaded movies and TV programs.

WGA East President Michael Winship was confident of a "yes" vote on the three-year deal. "No negotiations are perfect," he said, "but I think we've done very well."


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