Hollywood writers vote to lift 14-week strike
Los Angeles, February 13, 2008
Film and television writers voted decisively on Tuesday to lift their 14-week-old strike against major studios and return to work the next day, formally ending the worst labor clash to hit Hollywood in 20 years.
The back-to-work order was approved by 92.5 percent of the 3,775 members of the Writers Guild of America, who cast ballots in Los Angeles and New York two days after union leaders voted unanimously to endorse their contract settlement with the studios.
The vote paved the way for the 10,500 writers who walked off the job on November 5 to return to work first thing on Wednesday.
"The strike is over," WGA West President Patric Verrone declared at a news conference at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, which served as one of the polling stations.
"Our members have voted, and writers can go back to work."
WGA members will vote later on the three-year contract itself, which provides new payments to writers for work streamed on the Internet and doubles rates they earn for films and TV shows resold as Internet downloads.
The issue of compensating writers for work in new media proved to be the main sticking point in the confrontation between WGA leaders and the eight major entertainment companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
"This is a day of relief and optimism for everyone in the entertainment industry," the top executives of those companies said in a joint statement after the WGA vote was announced.
Last month, the companies concluded a separate labor pact with the Directors Guild of America, whose deal paved the way for a resumption of contract negotiations with writers that had stalled since December 7.
The WGA settlement was patterned largely after terms accepted by the directors.
The potential for further labor strife still hangs over Hollywood. The Screen Actors Guild, which represents some 120,000 film and TV performers, sees its contract with the studios come up for renewal in June, and SAG leaders have vowed to take an aggressive stance at the bargaining table.
For now, however, the prevailing mood was one of relief, though a return to business as usual will come gradually.
The strike threw the US television industry into turmoil, derailed several Hollywood movie productions and idled thousands of entertainment workers -- from actors and directors to hairstylists, set designers and clerks.
The impact included more than $2 billion in lost wages and earnings in the Los Angeles area alone, more than half from damage to businesses like limousine services, florists, caterers and restaurants, according the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
The strike also overshadowed the industry's annual awards season, forcing cancellation of the Golden Globes ceremony after actors threatened to boycott the event rather than cross picket lines to attend.
The settlement comes just in time for producers of the Oscar telecast, which is scheduled for Feb. 24. Oscar writers will now have just 11 days to produce material that normally takes many weeks.
TV studios and networks are girding to resume work on dozens of scripted prime-time comedies and dramas knocked off the air by the strike, hoping to salvage what remains of the current broadcast season. However, idled production crews will remain sidelined for weeks while new scripts are prepared. - Reuters
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