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Writers Guild History

July 30, 1988

Younger members of the Writers Guild who are tempted by the pressures of a long and painful strike to desert the guild should be reminded of some guild history.

In 1936 the major studios, viewing with alarm the early organizational efforts of the Screen Writers' Guild, created a group called the Screen Playwrights, a company union that would make the right noises but make no demands. With ruthless deliberation, with a combination of dire threat and the promise of monetary reward, they persuaded a group of guild members to defect.

The guild petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election to determine which organization would represent all screen writers--and the guild won.

With their rump organization dissolved--and nowhere else to go--the dissidents applied to come back into the fold, where they were admitted, if not welcomed. One by one they came back, ashamed, chagrined, humiliated.

The ensuring years were traumatic for these people. Friendships had dissolved. Social contacts had dried up. There were no welcoming smiles at the writers' table in the studio commissary.

Desertion in the face of the enemy has always carried a heavy penalty.

EDMUND H. NORTH

Los Angeles

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