11/15/07

Teamsters still crossing WGA picket lines

Striking television and film writers got some support on the picket lines Tuesday from a variety of television stars as the labor dispute went into its eighth day.

Hundreds of members of the Writers Guild of America and other picketers marched in front of Universal Studios, wearing red shirts and toting signs. Tuesday’s picket was dubbed "Picketing with the Stars," as actors and actresses joined in the march.

"Every time a writer writes a book, they get a little piece," actress Camryn Manheim told KCAL9. "Every time a musician writes a song, they get a little piece. Every time a writer writes a script, they ought to get a little piece."

The WGA is on strike in a dispute over future revenue from shows distributed over the Internet and other new media.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Monday took out ads in Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter headlined "Setting the Record Straight ..."

The ads asserted that the WGA knows, and its own records prove, that writers are already paid residuals on permanent digital downloads and pay-per-view digital downloads, and that "this additional compensation was part of more than $260,000,000 in record-breaking residuals paid to WGAW members in 2006."

The ad went on to state that, "when the WGA went on strike, an offer to pay writers for Internet streaming was on the table."

The WGA responded with a statement claiming the producers are trying to roll back benefits to writers regarding new media.

"The AMPTP told us in negotiations that new media was going to cannibalize traditional media," Neal Sacharow, WGAW director of communications, said in the statement. "Therefore, writers need a fair residual formula just to keep up. The proposals the companies brought to the table would decimate writers' incomes."

Picketers took the weekend off, but met to discuss strategy.

Teamsters, who drive the trucks that haul all the equipment needed for on-location shoots, have been crossing picket lines. Local union leaders have told drivers it's up to them to back the writers or not, according to the Los Angeles Times.

One Paramount Studios driver, however, told the newspaper that he got a memo saying that he would go to work or be fired.

The strike started Oct. 5 after the WGA contract expired and negotiations stalled. No new talks are scheduled.

Over the weekend, the writers expressed solidarity for striking stagehands in New York City, offering their assistance and support. Members of International Association of Theater and Stage Employees Local 1 went on strike against the League of American Theatres and Producers, and Broadway stages were dark Saturday.

Daily TV talk shows have been hit hard by the strike, and many other programs have also stopped production without writers to provide dialogue. Actor James Denton of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" noted that the Screen Actors Guild union will be going through contract negotiations of its own next year, and the outcome of the WGA strike could impact those talks.

"We're all going to be fighting the same battle," Denton told ABC7.

"With 'Housewives,' we've been together for four years," he said. "We're all a really close family, and the sooner it's over the better. For our crew, we've got lots of guys that get hurt a lot worse than we do a lot quicker."

Actor Jason Alexander told ABC7 that the issues being debated "are not easy."

"I think you're looking at a good six to eight weeks of concerted effort once they get back to the bargaining table," he said.

(laindependent.com)

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