Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Shall Ever the Twain Meet?

One of the valuable but relatively unheralded things which the Writers United leadership has done in the last few years is ease tensions between the WGA West and the WGA East.

This was not without controversy; some of the people I most respect regarding Guild matters felt we took the wrong course, that we were too “soft” on the East. This involved, among other things, forgiving large sums which apparently the East owed us but hadn’t been paying. It seemed to me, though, that in the bigger picture, forging a healthy relationship between the two Writers Guilds was of greater importance than what I hope, in time, will be looked back upon as bookkeeping.

Like most members, I’ve wondered why in this age of easy telecommuniations we still need two separate Writers Guilds anyway, with separate officers and Boards (they call theirs a Council) and, most wastefully, separate executive directors, paid staffs, and headquarters. The resistance to merger has historically come from the East, where heavy concentrations of news and daytime writers, for instance, worry that their unique concerns will go underattended.

I’m thinking about all of this more and more lately as we watch the unfortunate, ongoing contretemps between SAG and AFTRA, similarly redundant and overlapping Guilds. I’d hope that their troubles will provide an impetus for us to look at ourselves and eliminate our own split once and for all.

We showed good faith to the East and then some; now I'd love to see them do the same, and take the lead in setting forth some kind of plan for a merger which would leave them confident that their interests will be protected.