WGA Calls Strike Vote Over CBS Impasse

John Eggerton reports from Broadcasting & Cable:

Only days after giving its negotiators strike authority in its talks with Hollywood producers over a new master contract, which expires Oct. 31, the Writers Guild of America East and West said its members will hold a vote Nov. 15 to give the negotiating committee strike authorization against CBS in a separate contract dispute.

The union's CBS employees have been without a contract since April 2005, and CBS presented what it said was its final offer almost one year ago, which was rejected by 99% of WGA voters.

The two sides have not talked since January, union spokeswoman Sherry Goldman said, when CBS reiterated that it had made its final offer.

The WGA has more than 500 employees at CBS, including news writers, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers and researchers in New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Los Angeles.

The union is also in a protracted negotiation with ABC over news employees at that network. In both cases, the networks have argued that they need to change the contracts to remain competitive in a changing media environment.

The votes do not mean that there will be a strike, but they do mean that the negotiating committee can call a strike without going back to the rank-and-file to get the OK.