Striking Writers May Head Back To Work This Week

Striking writers on both the East and West coasts appear to be giving two thumbs up to a deal that would end the three-month long strike by the Writers Guild of America.

Leaving a meeting attended by at least 1,000 writers at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles late Saturday, writer/producer David Fury of Fox's "24" said the mood inside the building was "euphoric." Fury said, "I think that we showed that the union is strong and next time they'll think twice about rolling back on gains that we've already made."

In New York, documentary film maker Michael Moore said he was proud that the writers had stood up to the media conglomerates. "The fact that it was a bunch of people that got beat up in school because they like to sit around and write in their journals is kind of impressive", Moore said.

Many writers said they did not get everything they wanted, but that they had done better than they would have if they had not walked out on television and movie production.

Union members say the WGA will take 48 hours to have a vote on whether to lift the strike so writers can return to work this week. It will take another two weeks to actually ratify the contract.

If the members accept the contract it is possible that popular television shows from "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), "CSI" (CBS) and "Heroes" (NBC) could go back into production and finish the television season with new episodes.

Describing the agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers as "neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve," Patric Verrone and Michael Winship, respectively the presidents of the Writers Guild West and East, said in a letter to members, "Continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle this strike."

The agreement guarantees that writers will receive residuals for work that appears on the Internet or other new media such as cell phones. But if the Internet becomes the primary means for displaying what is now known as television, writers could make considerably less money when their work is replayed.

Representatives of the AMPTP had initially proposed that writers receive no royalties for work appearing on so-called "new media". Writers say that residual payments for previous work is the lifeblood that keeps them afloat between jobs.

A potential sticking point to the deal is a window of up to 24 days during which television programs that have already aired can be streamed on the Internet as a "promotion" without paying a residual to the writers.

And some writers say the proposal is a bad deal. "So much has been lost for so little and we've got a leadership in there selling it like it's the Holy Grail," said Jeremy Iacone, a screenwriter in Los Angeles.

The three-month strike has shut down most television production and is beginning to affect the movie industry. By some estimates it has resulted in $1.9 billion in lost wages as everyone from writers to prop men and caterers have been put out of work on both coasts.

The WGA held meetings in New York and Hollywood on Saturday to present the deal to the general membership.

Both the officers of the WGA and the producers have been hoping to end the strike in time to save the end of the television season, as well as the Oscar broadcast on Feb. 24. If the WGA negotiators and board call a 48-hour vote, writers are not likely to return to work until at least Wednesday.

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