Back to work!

Writers vote to end 100-day strike

The strike is over.

In balloting conducted Tuesday at single sites in Beverly Hills and New York, WGA members voted overwhelmingly to end their 100-day walkout.

Guild officials said 3,775 ballots were cast in person or by proxy, with 92.5% of votes cast in favor of ending the work stoppage. A total of 3,492 cast "yes" ballots, and only 283 voted against ending the strike.

"Our membership has voted, and writers can go back to work," WGA West president Patric Verrone said at a Tuesday night news conference. "This was not a strike we wanted but one we had to conduct in order to win jurisdiction and establish appropriate residuals for writing in new media and on the Internet. Those advances now give us a foothold in the digital age.

"Rather than being shut out of the future of content creation and delivery, writers will lead the way as TV migrates to the Internet and platforms for new media are developed," he said.

WGA East president Michael Winship said, "The success of this strike is a significant achievement, not only for ourselves but the entire creative community, now and in the future."

Officials also sent members e-mails explaining their obligation to return to jobs.

"If you were employed when the strike began, you should plan to report to work on Wednesday," Winship wrote. "If you're not employed at an office or other work site, call or e-mail your employer that you are resuming work. If you have been told not to report to work or resume your services, we recommend that you still notify your employer in writing of your availability to do so."

The bicoastal voting followed Saturday's announcement of a tentative three-year contract, granting annual pay raises of 3%-3.5% and historic gains in residuals for new-media content. The WGAW board and WGAE council could have ended the strike without the votes, but guild leaders said they wanted to give members a direct voice in that decision.

Now members will cast ballots on whether to ratify the tentative contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. Voting by mail or at membership meetings is set for Feb. 25 in Los Angeles and New York.

At the DGA — whose own recent contract agreement formed the basis for many of the final terms in the WGA pact — officials offered a statement of congratulations.

"The DGA applauds the successful conclusion of the AMPTP-WGA negotiations and the end to the strike," DGA president Michael Apted said. "The last three months have been painful ones for tens of thousands of working people in and around the entertainment industry, and like everyone else our members are now eager to get back to work."

Oscar producer Sid Ganis said he was relieved by the news.

"I am ecstatic that the 80th Academy Awards presentation can now proceed full steam ahead with talented writers working on the show, a fantastic array of presenters and performers and, most importantly, the ability for all of our honored nominees to attend without hesitation or discomfort," Ganis said.

In voting on the West Coast, where about three-fourths of the contract's 10,500 affected scribes reside, balloting was brisk at the WGA Theater under summerlike conditions. Legions of camera crews who descended upon the scene set up on the periphery of the area, with access to the actual voting site limited to a pool photographer and cameraman.

It was a cold and snowy winter's day in New York, where members of the WGAE trickled in and out of the Crowne Plaza Hotel warmed by expectations of a return to work starting today.

Brian Koppelman, a screenwriter whose credits include "Ocean's Thirteen," "Rounders" and "Runaway Jury," described the contract as a "big jump forward" and said he was happy to vote yes on lifting the strike order.

"Let's end this thing and get back to work," Koppelman said. "I can't wait to get back to work."

Meanwhile, a feel-good vibe continued to ripple throughout Hollywood in anticipation of a return to work after months of inactivity on TV show sets and significant disruption in filmmaking.

CBS Corp. topper Leslie Moonves confided to sorting through "so many emotions" as the protracted labor strife wound to a halt.

"But right now, there is right now a great sense of relief and a feeling that we're putting the community back together," he said. "And that's a great feeling."

Moonves said the strike was disruptive for his company but not overly damaging.

"Frankly, revenues were not down a lot, and costs were down a lot," he said. "So financially, there wasn't a lot of pain inflicted on CBS Corp. But I believe in this business, and this business is good when we're in full-scale production."

Today will represent a giant step in just that direction.

Actual productions, with actors on the set, won't get under way for a couple of weeks. But starting immediately, producers of shows on all the broadcast networks will have scribes starting to scratch out scripts for new episodes on scores of shows.

The new episodes then will go before the cameras during the next month. Sitcoms will need less prep time than dramas, on average.

"This is a day of relief and optimism for everyone in the entertainment industry," AMPTP member studios said in a joint statement. "We can now all get back to work, with the assurance that we have concluded two groundbreaking labor agreements — with our directors and our writers — that establish a partnership through which our business can grow and prosper in the new digital age.

"The strike has been extraordinarily difficult for all of us, but the hardest hit of all have been the many thousands of businesses, workers and families that are economically dependent on our industry," the studio bosses said. "We hope now to focus our collective efforts on what this industry does best (with) writers, directors, actors, production crews and entertainment companies working together to deliver great content to our worldwide audiences."

There was no immediate comment from SAG, whose AMPTP contract expires June 30.

Gail Schiller in New York contributed to this report.
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