LOS ANGELES — The Writers Guild of America, the collective bargaining organization for professional Hollywood screen and television writers, has published a list of three of its members who will be euthanized for crossing picket lines during the 2007 strike.
Guild officials emphasized to the public that their Euthanasia Program is not some rogue version of the death penalty, but merely a punitive measure designed to ensure compliance with union rules. “The Writers Guild of America vehemently opposes capital punishment,” they asserted in a written statement, “as an inhumane practice that has never been proven to be a deterrent to violent crime.”
But as a deterrent to “scab writing,” according to Dalen Jennington, a member of the WGA Punishment Committee, the Guild feels euthanasia is both “highly effective” and humane.
“Were these writers to live, they would have no careers and endure a lifetime of scorn from their colleagues,” said Jennington. “You cross a picket line, you die. It’s a rule that all members agree to when they join.”
Jennington wasn’t certain whether the policy would deter future writers from accepting non-union work during a strike, but noted that “these guys won’t do it again.”
One of “these guys” is condemned sitcom writer Emanuel P. Nguyen, a former “Simpsons” story editor.
Nguyen, who was found guilty of writing for “Days of our Lives” during the strike, expressed contrition when informed of his fate. “They paid me a thousand dollars for one week of work,” he said from his prison cell on the third floor of WGA headquarters. “I knew it was wrong, but I needed the money to pay my mortgage and buy food for my family. Please, tell my kids I did it for them.”
Even in his final, dire moments, Nguyen found irony in “Euthanasia” being imposed upon someone descended from Asia. “Tell my Jewish friends that if they’re approached to participate in a ‘Youth in Jerusalem’ program, just say ‘Fuck You.’”
Baker has tried in vain to appeal his sentence. He has sent over two dozen letters to the fourth floor, requesting that he be given a new trial – this time with a jury of fellow comedy writers and not the hour-episodic scribes who determined his fate the last time.
“The CSI guys decided I was guilty as charged,” lamented Nguyen. “There’s a stretch.”
But the WGA remains resolute in its decision. “The rules against working during a strike are sacred and enforced with no exceptions,” said Jemmington. “It ensures that the Guild remains strong – and it is only through strength that we can eventually acquiesce to the unfair demands of the studios and negotiate a contract that exploits all our members.”
Nguyen is scheduled to be put to death on Saturday in the WGA library by repeated exposure to all 137 episodes of the 1980s series “Gimme a Break.”