No picketers at Grammys; no work agreement either

WGA still mum on interim deal

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The WGA said Tuesday it won't picket the Grammy Awards next month, but the Recording Academy hasn't yet secured an interim work agreement for guild writers to participate in a telecast of the show.

The WGA West board was scheduled to meet Tuesday night, but it was unclear at press time whether the issue of the interim agreement would be raised. Without a deal, no WGA members will be able to write for the awards show.

What could have been a serious public relations battle has been averted, however, and talent belonging to other unions will be free to perform, present and attend the show.

"We are pleased with the decision made by the WGA today," Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said Tuesday. "In light of this, we are gratified that the 50th annual Grammy Awards will focus solely on the great music, artists and charitable work resulting from our show. We look forward to unveiling the exciting lineup of artists who will give our worldwide audience one of the most memorable Grammy shows ever."

There has been furious behind-the-scenes pressure on WGAW president Patric Verrone to grant the interim agreement to cover the two WGA members who contribute to the Grammys. Producers of the awards show requested an interim pact similar to a work agreement granted David Letterman's Worldwide Pants last month.

Officials with the Recording Academy have met repeatedly with Verrone during the past 10 days to outline the reasoning for an interim deal. Performers' unions AFTRA and the American Federation of Musicians support the WGA in its contract talks, but both urged the WGA not to make the Grammys collateral damage in that labor strife.

AFTRA applauded the WGA's decision. "(We are) pleased that the Writers Guild of America has decided not to picket the Grammy Awards," AFTRA national president Roberta Reardon said Tuesday. "This event is a crucial platform for the Recording Academy's ongoing efforts to protect and advance the rights of musical artists -- an effort we at AFTRA regard as central to our mission."

The Recording Academy has hired a public relations firm that specializes in crisis management to press its views in the matter. Among the critical elements emphasized to Verrone are the charities that benefit from Grammy Week and the telecast, especially MusiCares.

The WGA's recently granted waivers to the NAACP Image Awards and the SAG Awards, citing in part the groups' societal contributions.

Several artists, including Foo Fighters and SAG member Beyonce, have said they intend to perform at the 50 annual Grammy Awards regardless of how the labor dispute turns out. CBS is set to broadcast the show Feb. 10 from Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Ann Donahue is senior editor at Billboard.
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