6/14/08

Sit Down, Shut Up And Walk Out

Animation Union dispute rages

Deadline Hollywood Daily blogger Nikki Finke is reporting the 14 WGA writers and writer-producers on Sony's animated SIT DOWN, SHUT UP have walked off the show. It is scheduled to premiere on Fox's Sunday-night animated block this fall.

There is apparently a dispute over who has jurisdiction over the writing staff: the WGA or IATSE, the labor union representing technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theater, motion picture and television production, and trade shows.

All Fox's animated shows are covered under the WGA contract, so the writers assumed their new show would be as well (Fox co-owns the show). Sony repeatedly told writers the same, but finally revealed the cartoon was to be covered by IATSE.

Showrunner Mitch Hurwitz (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) and writers-producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein (formerly of THE SIMPSONS) are "upset and sick about this."

Insiders have revealed to Finke that the writers for SIT DOWN are upset they were on strike for four months and Sony is taking away their right to be repped by the WGA's new contract. WGA leadership had worried this would happen to animation writers as the big studios turn animation over to IATSE's jurisdiction.

Finke's sources say Sony garbled the facts from the start. "Bill, Josh and Hurwitz all took Sony's statements in good faith that the show would be guild-covered," one said. "Because Sony was saying up and down the line that they were waiting for the pickup before signing with the WGA."

A previous Sony animated TV show, DILBERT, was under WGA jurisdiction, so writers and producers trusted them.

The so-called Animation Guild Local -- IATSE's Local 839 -- arrived. "We naively thought it would be resolved, and we were all taken advantage of. We're saddened we've been played like this," one of the scribes explained. "Because for two whole months through last week, Sony was still saying 'Don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. The show will be guild-covered.' And then this week Sony said, 'Sorry, the guild is off the table. You guys are going to be IATSE.'"

No one has signed a contract, and no one has been paid so far, so they walked out Thursday. "We can't afford to keep on going in to work on good faith."

The WGA writers/producers went to the WGA to formally ask the guild's help in this fight. "We said, 'We don't want to be IATSE members. We want you to be our collective bargaining agent,' " one of them said. "Sony has offered to pay the IATSE dues and initiation for us and even said 'we have internal mechanisms that will give you guys residuals'. But IATSE is not going to kick in our pension and health so we're not going to vest as soon."

SIT DOWN's writers stressed they have a feeling of responsibility as WGA members, especially after the hard-fought strike was resolved.

"All the writers are unanimous on this: none of us want to be the writers who roll back WGA coverage of animation. And Mitch was very firm that his show isn't going to be the one that rolls back guild coverage of animation. It's really come down to a battle over jurisdiction. It's not about the money. It's about the right to be represented by the Writers Guild."

(news.awn.com)

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