E!, 'Fashion Police' Writers to Face Off in Representation Election (Exclusive)
There may be an end in sight to the WGA's strike against E!'s Fashion Police. The guild has confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the network filed a petition for a union representation election with the NLRB that will take place in mid-December.
That represents an interim victory in the seven-month strike for E!, which has been refusing to negotiate with the guild in the absence of a representation election. But the real test will be whether the writers will vote for WGA representation (which seems likely) and then, if the WGA wins that vote, whether the company and union can reach a deal expeditiously.
E! did not have any immediate comment.
The WGA West's confirmation comes against a backdrop of further back and forth between Fashion Police host Joan Rivers and the writers and unions. As first reported by THR, in an interview on the Splitsider website, Rivers sided with the network's position that a union election be held before any negotiations take place between E! and the WGA, with Rivers saying "E! is right. They wanted writers to take a vote before they went out and decided to strike, and the WGA wanted them to negotiate to not take a vote."
That appears to be at odds with a position she took in connection with the settlement of WGA East charges against her six weeks ago, when she said in a statement, "It's time for both sides to sit down at the table and negotiate. Forget about [holding a union representation] election."
In addition, Rivers referred in the interview to "these poor shmuck writers" and added, "You know, you want to go, like, 'You asshole, you're stupid! Everyone get together. Calm down.' … Everyone is posturing, like, 'My dick is bigger than your dick.' … And you so, you know, they're all idiots."
Rivers' comments outraged the union. In a statement mailed to THR, WGA East president Michael Winship said, "The Writers Guild of America East has been made aware of Ms. Joan River's recent derisive and crude comments about the hardworking and mistreated writers of Fashion Police, who have been on strike for months trying to gain union representation and the redress of terrible wages and working conditions. What she has said is not only reprehensible but flies in the face of a settlement with the WGAE to which she agreed. How dare she at first proclaim solidarity with fellow writers and then so crassly stab them in the back?"
Winship added, "She should be ashamed of herself, although it is clear that the concept of shame does not trouble what little conscience she has. Because the strike continues, she must continue to refuse to write, but her latest statement egregiously violates the spirit of the rest of the settlement. We are exploring all options."
Friday morning, Rivers fired back in a statement. "I am stunned by the WGAE's recent personal attacks and allegations that I breached the Settlement Agreement in connection with the WGAE Charges. I am supportive of the striking writers. I am hopeful that the writers will soon be covered by a WGA contract, as I have just learned that E! and the WGA are having an election in early December. As a long-standing member of the WGAE, I am greatly confused and disturbed by Mr. Winship's unprofessional and hurtful statements about my character -- it is time for the focus to be on getting the writers a contract, not using me as a scapegoat."
Rivers' statement also said that according to her counsel at the law firm of Loeb & Loeb, "Joan Rivers has fully complied with the terms of the Settlement Agreement. The statements that Mr. Winship attributes to Ms. Rivers do not violate the Settlement Agreement."
The WGA West-sanctioned strike has been going on since April. The guild is seeking pension and health benefits, residuals and what it calls "industry-standard compensation" for writers on the show. In addition, the WGAW helped writers file complaints with the California labor commissioner, alleging that E! and Rivers' Rugby Productions owe about $1.5 million in unpaid wages and overtime.
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