WGA West will represent CBS scribes

New-media writers voted unanimously for representation

The WGA West has scored another small victory: organizing more new-media writers at CBS studios.

Fifteen news, promo, and sports writers who produce content for CBS' Internet operations in the Los Angeles area unanimously voted to seek representation by the WGAw in a tally conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. The writers work at KCAL/KCBS, CBS TV City, and CBS Radio/KNX and will begin to negotiate a contract with their employer.

WGAW union rep Lynda Whittaker and organizer Laura Watson worked with shop stewards Kathy Kiernan, Scott Gutman and Brett Galde to organize the writers.

"This is good news for new-media writers," said WGAW president Patric Verrone, who has pushed to organize nontraditional media during the four years he's been in office. "As more and more news, sports and promotional content is distributed on the Internet, it is essential that its writers win respect for their work and all the benefits of a WGA contract."

These new writers join broadcast TV and radio writers already covered under a separate CBS news writers contract. Additionally, the Minimum Basic Agreement renegotiated last year, which for the first time achieved jurisdiction in much of new media, covers writers in the entertainment field.

The guild has had notable run-ins with CBS in the recent past. A strike by 12 writer-producers on the CBS-co-owned CW show "America's Next Top Model" -- a potential beachhead in organizing reality TV workers -- was ultimately unsuccessful. And negotiations over an expired contract for CBS newswriters in 2007 provoked ire among the guild leadership.

But the additional foothold in new-media organizing signals another front in the battle over compensation and coverage for industry talent in the digital age, a fight that triggered a 100-day strike by the WGA in 2007-08 and a nine-month contract standoff with SAG the following year.

"I know in this ever-changing world it's important to be heard," said participating CBS Web writer Alan Carter. "It might be cliche, but there is strength in numbers. I'm not always sure the meek shall inherit the Earth, but I know the weak don't have a chance. I applaud the guild for making us all stronger."