AMPTP fires back at WGA over fi-core

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UPDATED 4:47 p.m. PT April 22, 2008

The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers is crying foul against the WGA for its Friday e-mail to members outing 28 writers who chose to go fi-core during the 100-day strike.

On Tuesday, the AMPTP filed two unfair labor practices charges -- one against the WGA West and the other against the WGA East -- with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming the missive by WGAW president Patric Verrone and WGAE president Michael Winship was meant to "restrain, coerce and retaliate against the 28 writers for exercising their rights" under federal law.

Using phrases from the WGA's Friday message, the charges allege the WGA blacklisted the writers, subjecting them to "scorn and opprobrium by openly publicizing their names and referring to them as 'strikebreakers' and the 'puny few.' "

"The WGA directed WGA members, including 'show runners' and others who have the power to hire, fire, discipline and adjust grievances, to boycott the blacklisted writers by holding them 'accountable' and by keeping them 'at arm's length,' " the charges claim.

The e-mail chastises the members who elected to leave the guild during the strike under the government's financial core status law.

The 28 writers, the majority of who write for daytime soaps, elected to file fi-core, allowing them to cross the picket lines and return to work. Writers who chose fi-core still paid union dues and are part of the guild's collective bargaining. The WGA can't fine them for opting out but can bar them from ever holding office or voting in guild elections.

The WGA letter sharply criticized the decision by those writers, stating they "must be held at arm's length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are -- strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for which we fought so hard at risk."

The AMPTP believes that crosses the line.

"By publicly naming names and encouraging people who have the power to hire writers to keep them 'at arm's length' and saying they must be 'judged accountable,' it is clear the WGA leadership is seeking to deny employment to these writers in the future," the AMPTP said in a statement. "That is a direct violation of federal labor law, and as the employers of those writers we have a responsibility to defend them and the rule of law in this case."

In a statement, the WGAW said the charges are "legally baseless and represent an intrusion by the studios into an internal union matter."

Choosing fi-core "is not a private act, because it directly affects the livelihood of all guild members, especially during a strike," the WGAW added. "Accordingly, the guild leadership believes that it was appropriate to inform all members of the actions of these former members."

The WGAW also said the writers' actions were "ethically wrong" because federal law allows them to reap the benefits of the new union contract, even though they resigned. The guild also denied it has encouraged anyone to not hire the writers.

After the initial filing, the NLRB will investigate the charges with both sides and determine whether there is a case. If the board decides a formal hearing is needed, then a complaint is filed by the NLRB and heard before an administrative court judge.
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