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Writers approve strike-ending deal

Union leaders say agreement ‘breaks new ground’ for writers as their demands for new media payments are met by producers.

March 01, 2008|By Jeremy Oberstein

BURBANK — An overwhelming majority of Writers Guild of America members voted Wednesday to formally adopt the terms of an agreement that ended the union’s 100-day strike.

More than 93% of the guild’s estimated 4,000 members in both Los Angeles and New York voted to accept the terms of the three-year deal they agreed in principle to with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that put an end to the strike on Feb. 13, according to guild spokesman Gregg Mitchell.

Leaders of the writers guild, including Patric M. Verrone, president of the union’s western branch, said the agreement broke new ground for writers in the “digital age.”

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The deal establishes writer jurisdiction for projects made for new media outlets, such as the Internet; provides residual payments for new media projects that are repeated online, including Internet downloads and movies and television shows that are streamed online; and establishes a new system for the union to calculate how much writers will receive from recurring new media projects.

The end of the strike signaled the return of work at media studios that have pressed their writers back into action as many shows plan to return where they left off before the strike brought production to a stand-still.

Last week, ABC announced that its hit one-hour drama, “Lost,” would return with five weeks of new episodes starting April 24, which followed similar announcements from other networks.

As writers returned to work, activity at businesses seemed to be returning to pre-strike levels, said Gary Olson, president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

“Hotel bookings are picking up where they were in decline and restaurants in Downtown are picking up as well,” he said. “All the signs are positive and everybody’s raring to go.”

But the entertainment industry may not be out of the woods yet.

The contract for the Screen Actors Guild is set to expire June 30 and, if no deal is reached with the producers, the actors could strike.

An actors strike, which could result in a walkout by the union’s 120,000 members, could have another domino effect on the industry.

During the writers strike, the actors guild honored the picket lines by not working on their own projects, eventually culminating in the cancellation of the Golden Globe Awards.

Despite some trepidation, Olson remains optimistic that a deal will be reached between the actors guild and the producers association.

But even if no deal is reached, he is confident that an actors strike would not have the same devastating effects the writers work stoppage had on the city.

“It won’t affect Burbank the same way,” he said.

“At least not to the same extent.”


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