January 16, 2008 / 12:46 AM / in 10 years

Striking Hollywood union weighs Grammys show plea

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After yanking the red carpet out from under the Golden Globes and threatening the Oscars, the union for striking Hollywood writers is deciding whether to picket the U.S. music industry’s highest honors.

<p>Actors Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson attend the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in this February 11, 2007 file photo. Writers Guild of America spokesman Gregg Mitchell said Monday that Grammy organizers have not asked for a special waiver to allow union writers to work on the telecast but added that such a request likely would be denied. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>

Grammy organizers have asked the Writers Guild of America for a strike waiver enabling the 50th annual edition of the music awards to go on as usual with union writers and without pickets, WGA officials said on Tuesday.

But union leaders expressed doubt that they would grant the Grammy request. The decision rests with the WGA’s governing board, the union said.

“I wouldn’t bet on a waiver, as much as we hate to see artists not get their recognition,” WGA spokesman Jeff Hermanson told Reuters.

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which sponsors the Grammys, issued a statement urging the WGA to reach an accord with producers of the ceremony but insisted the show would go on with or without the WGA’s blessing.

“Those in the music and creative industry depend upon the annual proceeds from the Grammy Awards telecast to fund a whole variety of worthwhile programs, such as our MusiCares Foundation,” recording academy president Neil Portnow said in the statement. “Accordingly, all preparations for (the show) remain in full swing.”

The 2008 Grammy telecast on CBS is set to air live on February 10 from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles and is considered a “struck” production by the WGA, which launched its strike against film and TV studios on November 5.

While the Grammys largely consist of musical performances and winners taking the stage to give acceptance speeches, much of the introductory remarks and banter by presenters is normally prepared in advance by union writers, who would be barred from working on the show.

But more importantly, a denial of a strike waiver would subject the show to pickets by the WGA, throwing into question whether some of the Grammy nominees, performers and presenters might choose to stay away from the event.

<p>Recording Academy President Neil Portnow participates in the pre-show telecast at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, February 11, 2007. Grammy organizers have asked the Writers Guild of America for a strike waiver enabling the 50th annual edition of the music awards to go on as usual with union writers and without pickets, WGA officials said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello</p>

A number of high-profile Grammy nominees this year, including Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and Alicia Keys, also are members of the WGA’s sister union for TV and movie performers, the Screen Actors Guild.

SAG has pledged its support of the Writers Guild should it decide to picket the Grammys.

“The WGA has informed us that they consider the show struck work and they expect to have a picket line in place,” SAG said in a statement. “In circumstances like this, our members have been unwilling to cross the picket line, and we expect that solidarity will continue.”

It was the threat of an awards boycott by SAG members that derailed the Golden Globe Awards for film and TV on Sunday, forcing organizers to scrap the traditional gala event in favor of a bare-bones news conference to announce winners.

The People’s Choice Awards likewise was scaled back to a prerecorded “magazine” format consisting of clips of nominees and videotaped acceptance speeches of winners.

But two other unions representing musical performers, the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, joined in urging support for a Grammy strike waiver.

The WGA also has threatened to picket the film industry’s highest honors, the Oscars, which are set for February 24, though WGA West President Patric Verrone held out hope that the strike could be settled by then.

He and other union executives appeared at a news conference to announce that the WGA had reached agreement with the NAACP to allow the civil rights organization’s annual Image Awards to proceed next month without protests by striking writers.

Reuters/Nielsen

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