Next WGA Strike Victim: Awards Season


Published: January 31, 2008

What most people know is that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has already taken a heavy toll, forcing the 65th Annual Golden Globe Awards to scale back their ceremony to a half-hour press conference, among other consequences. However, with the Grammy Awards and the Oscars approaching next month, the persistence of the WGA has given fans a scare about possibly not seeing their favorite actors and musicians accept their awards on television.

The scare comes from the Guild’s threat of not granting a waiver to the Academy Awards and the Grammys. A waiver would allow the award ceremonies to continue as planned, using WGA writers despite the strike. However, the Guild has been adamant about the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) reaching a deal before the award ceremonies proceed as planned.

Although it seems the 80th annual Oscars, which are scheduled to air on Feb. 24, are unlikely to be televised in the current state of the strike, the Grammys may be in less danger. According to Neil Portnow, the current president of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the show will go on even if it isn’t granted a waiver by the Guild. In a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, Portnow stated that “every day there is going to be another element of piling on by the music industry, that this is wrong, and that this show is the wrong target.” Portnow knows that the show will be affected, but he doesn’t want this special ceremony, which is in its 50th year, to lose any nostalgic value.

Importantly, most writers don’t see the strike as a money problem, but rather a problem of respect. Yes, they would like to receive their deserved financial compensation, but underneath it all, they want to receive the respect they deserve for all of their contributions. Solidarity has been the buzz word promoted in the strike, with writers proposing a collaboration between not only writers and producers, but also collaboration with other groups as well. The WGA has been receiving support from the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, among others. However, SAG members, who may also be planning to strike later this year, have shown increased support for the WGA on the brink of the award season.

Recently, members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have also backed the writers strike. On Jan. 15 and 16, ALPA, which belongs to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFLCIO), the same labor group as the WGA, joined the writers in the picket lines both outside Madison Square Garden and NBC Studios. However, Champion Air is not on strike; they have been without a contract for three years and have joined the writers in informational picketing. According to Matt Marsh, Master Executive Counsel of Champion Air, both groups are fighting for the same cause. “When one of [our unions] is in trouble, the other comes to help…solidarity is definitely what we are fighting for.”

It is uncertain when we will know whether the award ceremonies will continue as planned. The cancellation of the Golden Globes came just six days before the winners were announced at the press conference, and with more weight being placed on the remaining award ceremonies, expect to hear news even closer to the planned dates of presentation. As for the writers, the award ceremonies are the last thing on their minds. Monique Fortune, adjunct professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University,  stated that “WGA is in this for the long haul. Yes, separate deals were made with writers from Letterman’s show and others, but for the WGA, it is all about respect for their talent and contributions to media industries.  If they have to remove themselves from the Academy Awards—so be it. WGA is holding out because they want the industry and the public to feel their absence from major events like the Golden Globes and Oscars.” Hopefully, their message will be heard as the peak of the award season approaches and important decisions remain
to be made.