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Writers Guild Hit by NLRB Complaint

Times Staff Writer

The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the Writers Guild of America, seeking to invalidate guild rules that limit members’ ability to quit the union during a strike.

The action supports a charge previously filed by 21 dissident members of the guild during its 154-day strike against movie and television producers.

The dissidents argued that U.S. Supreme Court decisions rendered invalid guild constitutional provisions that subjected them to the union’s strike rules even if they resigned during a strike.

The complaint called for a Nov. 3 hearing before an administrative law judge in Los Angeles, and could lead to a hearing before the labor board in Washington. "(It’s) like an indictment. We are a prosecutor alleging a violation of the law,” Sidney Rosen, a regional NLRB officer, said of the action.

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Writers Guild officers said they hadn’t been served the complaint. In a brief statement, however, the guild said, “The WGA expects to prevail in the lawsuit before the NLRB or on appeal to the federal courts, if necessary.”

A writer among those who signed the original charge said that guild executive director Brian Walton had recently urged the dissidents to drop their charge in order to avoid weakening the union in future contract negotiations.

Lionel Chetwynd, one of the 21, on Thursday disputed the notion that the dissidents are hurting the guild by pursuing their charge. “Clearly, there are deep problems with the guild. You could look at this as a first step in clearing away the debris and getting our constitution in line with the law of the land,” Chetwynd said.

The NLRB action appeared to support union members who might choose to become the “financial core"--or non-voting--members in their unions, thereby exempting themselves from strike discipline under recent federal court decisions.

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Glenn Gumpel, national executive director of the Directors Guild of America, said he doesn’t think the complaint will severely damage other Hollywood unions.


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