By Todd Cunningham
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - With the strike by nine writers on E! Entertainment's "Fashion Police" nearly five weeks old, both sides were digging in for the long haul Wednesday.
While the writers were preparing to set up an 11 a.m. picket line and rally in front of E! TV's Los Angeles headquarters Thursday morning, the network issued a series of bullet points designed to clarify its position.
The writers have been on strike since April 17, after expressing a desire to organize and join the Writers Guild of America West. The writers want the network to recognize the WGA as their bargaining representative, while the network is insisting that a National Labor Relations Board election be held first.
The writers maintain that demanding an election before negotiating is a stalling tactic, since they've made their desire to be in the guild clear by signing union cards.
"Requiring an NLRB administered election is a fair and important part of the process," the network said in its statement Wednesday. "E! went so far as to take the unprecedented step of filing the petition with the NLRB ourselves a couple months ago to accelerate the process on the Fashion Police writers' behalf. If the writers had participated we could have been well into negotiations if not done by now."\
The network also reiterated earlier statements, which said it was not anti-WGA, and noted that it airs others shows ("The Soup" and "Chelsea Lately") that employ WGA workers that participated in NLRB elections.
An E! representative declined to say who was doing the work normally done by the striking writers.
Weeks before going on strike, the writers filed $1.5 million in wage and hour claims with the California Division of Labor Standard Enforcement against the network and show host Joan Rivers' production company, Rugby Productions. They are seeking payment for unpaid regular and overtime hours worked.
That dispute is moving forward separately from the representation issue. A settlement meeting held at the behest of the state failed to result break the impasse, so a date will be set for hearings on the writers' claims.
While the writers are out of their jobs, the WGA is making emergency loans available as it does to its members when they are on strike, a guild spokesman said Thursday. The WGA is also financing legal work done on their behalf.