Leaders of Two Striking Entertainment Unions Clash
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14 — The entertainment industry’s labor dispute boiled over anew yesterday, with the leaders of two striking unions criticizing each other and the Walt Disney Company lambasting the tactics of a third guild.
The escalating tensions came as the stalemate continued between Hollywood writers and producers over a new contract. Negotiations broke down on Nov. 4 over payments for reruns of programming on the Internet, among other issues, and no new talks have been scheduled.
The first shot was fired by Thomas C. Short, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes, an umbrella group that represents technical workers like makeup artists and casting directors. A strike by one arm of the union, which began Nov. 10, has darkened most theaters on Broadway.
But that does not seem to have fostered solidarity between Mr. Short and Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America West. In a letter dated Tuesday, Mr. Short told Mr. Verrone: “I have warned you and predicted the devastation that would come from your action. Those predictions have now come true.”
Citing the financial and job losses mounting from the writers’ strike, Mr. Short complained that his members were stuck in the middle. “It’s time to put egos aside and recognize how crucial it is to get everyone back to work before there is irreversible damage from which this industry can never recover,” he wrote.
Mr. Short’s bile struck some writers’ guild officials as incongruous, given that the strike he authorized last week has wreaked havoc on New York City’s stage and tourism businesses.
Mr. Verrone’s response, while less caustic, bluntly dismissed Mr. Short’s assessment. “To put it simply, our fight should be your fight,” he wrote, going on to note that other unions had offered support instead of criticism.
Disney, meanwhile, went after a third union, the Writers Guild of America East, accusing it of lying. The big media companies had left criticizing the unions to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios at the negotiating table.
The East Coast branch of the guild, which represents some 3,000 writers and operates independently of the West Coast branch, picketed the World of Disney store on Fifth Avenue in New York yesterday. Members handed out fliers that stated: “Here’s the current arrangement writers have with Disney and other companies: Disney revenue from digital: $1.5 billion. Writer’s share: $0.”
In a statement, Disney said, “The W.G.A. leadership is deliberately distorting the facts.”
Members have been paid residuals on entertainment content downloaded through iTunes, the company noted, adding that the bulk of the $1.5 billion came from sales of travel packages and Disney merchandise online.
“Deliberately misleading the public is not the best way to resolve this issue and get Hollywood back to work,” Disney said.
A spokeswoman for the Writers Guild of America East said, “We would better know the nature of Disney’s and ABC’s revenues from digital if they would more fully and transparently reveal them to us.”
Last month, Mr. Short and Mr. Verrone clashed over whether animation writers represented by Mr. Short’s organization should be able to keep working if animation writers represented by Mr. Verrone’s group went on strike. The two have also fought over organizing “story editors” who work for reality-based television programs.