January 22, 2008 / 10:32 PM / 10 years ago

Strike writers to spare Grammys from picketing

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The union for striking Hollywood screenwriters said on Tuesday it has decided to spare next month’s Grammy Awards from picketing that could dampen the recording industry’s highest honors.

Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson attend the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, February 11, 2007. The union for striking Hollywood screenwriters said on Tuesday it has decided to spare next month's Grammy Awards from picketing that could dampen the recording industry's highest honors. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The announcement by the Writers Guild of America marked a surprise reversal from the union’s previous stance that it would probably picket the Grammys show, which is scheduled for a live telecast on February 10 from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

No reason was given for the union decision, which came in a vote by the Writers Guild’s board of directors, according to a union spokesman.

Writers Guild has been using the threat of picketing of major entertainment awards to draw attention to its cause and to press the major film and TV studios to renew negotiations aimed at settling the union’s 11-week-old strike.

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 are normally prepared in advance by union writers.

While the Writers Guild has yet to grant a special waiver of strike rules barring its members from working on the show, Tuesday’s decision clears the way for the Grammys to go on without the spectacle of stars having to cross picket lines.

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.

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

The threat of WGA picketing still hangs over the film industry’s most prestigious honors, the Oscars, whose organizers vow to go on with some form of their ceremony as scheduled on February 24.

Union leaders are expected to open informal discussions with studio executives this week in a bid to pave the way for official bargaining to resume following a deal reached last week between the studios and Hollywood directors.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and David Wiessler

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