The Writers Guild of America has managed to stall an effort by some of its striking members to return to work, but solidarity among film and TV writers is showing some strain.
With the strike by 9,000 movie and TV writers in its eighth week, guild officials have been approached by several splinter groups proposing various plans for settling the dispute.
According to guild officials and some striking writers, a dissident group of 27 soap-opera writers last week threated to consider secession from the guild or to challenge its strike policy before the National Labor Relations Board.
The dissidents had planned to take the steps unless the guild allowed them to return to work under interim contracts. The dissidents were persuaded by guild officials and other writers to delay their action, however. (No member of the dissident soap writers could be reached for comment on Thursday.)
Potentially the strongest of the union's splinter groups is the Writers' Coalition, a loose-knit association of up to 300 high-earning screenwriters and TV writer-producers, including Edward Anhalt, Lionel Chetwynd, and other former members of the "union blues" coalition. That group sharply criticized the guild's handling of its 1985 contract negotiation and strike, and ultimately helped bring about a change in guild leadership.
Earlier this week, the Writers Coalition called off a meeting that had been intended to frame an appeal to guild leaders for more independent contracts. Such contracts might allow some writers to return to work while keeping the major studios shut down.
According to Anhalt, guild negotiator Brian Walton persuaded the group to cancel the meeting in order to avoid giving the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers the impression that the guild was weakening. Walton confirmed the discussions.