WGAE president Albers bows out of election


A month before the start of contract negotiations for movie and primetime writers, WGA East president Chris Albers revealed Monday that he won't seek re-election.

A pair of TV newswriter/producers will compete to succeed Albers, who is a writer for "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." They are Michael Winship, whose TV credits include a stint with PBS' "Now With Bill Moyers," and Tom Phillips, who has held positions at CBS News and elsewhere.

Both are members of the WGAE Council.

"It has been a huge honor for me to serve as president of WGAE the last two years, but the commitment is simply too great to run for another term," Albers said in a letter distributed to membership Monday. "I wanted you to hear the news directly from me. Fortunately, I feel the guild will be left in extremely competent hands."

Elected almost two years ago, Albers' term at the 4,000-member guild expires Sept. 20. He was unavailable for comment on his decision because of a show taping, WGAE spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said.

On July 16, a negotiating committee representing the WGA East and WGA West will begin talks with reps of the studios and networks on a minimum basic agreement for film and TV scribes. The current MBA, covering 12,000 members of the two guilds, expires Oct. 31, and whoever is elected WGAE president will join those negotiations in progress.

WGAW president Patric Verrone has indicated that he likely will run for re-election, but the big question will be whether he will face any opposition. The WGAW is expected to announce its candidates lineup June 21, but prospective candidates will have another month after that to petition to have their names added to ballots.

"I am proud of how closely I have worked with (Verrone) over the past two years and that we've brought our two unions closer together," Albers told members. "I am confident that WGAE's next president will maintain this strong relationship. I am also extremely proud of the work we did with WGAW to organize Comedy Central. The writers at 'The Daily Show' and 'The Colbert Report' now have strong Writers Guild contracts, and very soon we will have another exciting announcement. The commitment to organizing nonunion jobs is still a top priority at WGAE, and it will continue well after I am gone."

The WGA has been aggressively pressing producers of numerous Comedy Central shows to ink a guild agreement, and a related announcement is expected soon.

In his remaining time in office, Albers said he will seek resolution of long-stalled newswriter talks at CBS and ABC as well as "doing the necessary prep work for the upcoming MBA negotiation."

In other WGAE balloting, incumbent vp Bob Schneider and secretary-treasurer Gail Lee will run unopposed for new terms. Nine open seats on the WGAE Council also will be filled.

Freelance candidates include Jeremy Pikser, Pippin Parker, Melissa Salmons, Richard Vetere, Courtney Simon, Ozzie Alfonso, Susan Kim, Tim Carvell, Jerome Coopersmith, Lawrence Block and Adam Brooks. Sue Brown, Charles Lyons, Duane Tollison, Roger Fortuna, David Mock and Phil Pilato seek staff seats on the council.

WGAE members will vote by mail or in person at a Sept. 20 membership meeting. The WGAW has set a Sept. 17 membership meeting.

Results of balloting for president and other offices will be announced soon after voting is tabulated at the respective guilds.