WGA Expects Quick Strike Tally Tonight

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New York -- The Writers Guild of America, which is voting on both coasts today on whether to end its three-month-long strike, expects to have a vote tally tonight just a few hours after members in California finish casting the ballots, union officials said Tuesday.

The vote on ending the strike -- so writers can go back to work pending ratification of a deal reached last weekend with the studios -- was being conducted at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Manhattan from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. (PT) The WGA expects to have the voting results just a few hours after the end of the West Coast vote.

The WGA East represents 2,500 members covered by the new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, while the WGA West counts 8,000 writers, WGA East president Michael Winship said Tuesday at a brief press conference at the Crowne Plaza.

He said he was “reasonably confident” that the union would end the strike, which would mean writers would be back to work Wednesday. After the votes are tallied, the WGA will e-mail its members immediately with the results, according to Winship.

The next order of business will be the membership vote on whether or not to ratify the tentative contract. Ballots on the ratification will be mailed out in the next few days, and writers have until Feb. 25 to mail them or attend meetings that will be set up to let them vote, Winship said.

The struck programs that will have their writers back immediately include Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, he said  

As for today’s vote on immediately ending the strike, Winship said, “I don’t think it’s a pro forma vote, I think it’s a very informed vote….They’ve had a few days to think about this. They’ve had few days to ponder the contract and all the advances that we made in this contract, and they’ve had 14 weeks on the picket line.”

He added, “And on the basis of all that information and all that hard-won experience on the streets, they’ll make a very, very rational sound decision as to whether or not to lift the restraining order. I myself am in favor of that.”

Winship also told a flock of reporters that the new three-year contract with the AMPTP made substantial gains on the new-media front for writers.

“It was a very, very historic agreement,” he said. “What those are are jurisdiction in Internet and new media to allow writers to go into the 21st century knowing that their work will be covered in that period.”

Winship added: “It sets the foundation and ground work for that, and also a real percentage of revenue, because we’re receiving a percentage of the distributor’s gross, which is very real money, as opposed to what people refer to as ‘creative’ or Hollywood accounting, where you’re never quite sure where the money is going or coming from.”    

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