×

WGA Leadership Seeks to Boost Morale, Reinforce Solidarity and Increase Diversity

Ten years ago, the Writers Guild of America had been on strike for three months, so the WGA West scrubbed its awards ceremony.

The WGA East, however, went ahead with its show, which turned out to be a fairly exuberant affair as it came after the two sides reached a tentative deal to end the strike earlier in the day.

This year, both branches of the WGA are planning the usual celebrations on Feb. 11 in New York City and Beverly Hills. The guild put the industry on edge last May as it negotiated down to the wire for a successor deal that was reached an hour before the contract expired. Key provisions included dealing with shorter TV seasons, residuals for streaming services, parental leave and the healthcare plan.

“We definitely made progress on the new deal,” says WGA West president David A. Goodman. “But many of the problems that writers were having last year are still here.”

Goodman notes that the most recent report for WGA West members shows that earnings fell 3.1% to $1.23 billion in 2016, thanks to declines in both television and feature films.

“Individual writers are earning less and doing a lot of work for free,” he adds. “We want to make sure that our members are not doing free drafts and that they know that they have the right to say, ‘I’m not supposed to do that so I won’t.’”

WGA East president Beau Willimon points out that WGA members gave guild negotiators a strike authorization in April with more than 96% support from voting by more than two-thirds of eligible members.

“The solidarity among the members was tremendous and it really showed the AMPTP [the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] that we needed to be taken seriously,” he adds.

Both Goodman and Willimon assert that the WGA leadership is prepping for the next master contract negotiations for a successor deal to the current pact, which expires on May 1, 2020.

Both branches have also expressed solidarity with the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and have also blasted President Trump on occasion. Willimon says the guild is working on a member survey and exploring ways in which to improve the culture among its members.

“We’re trying to do what we can to improve diversity but we don’t have hiring power,” he says.

And the WGA membership has jumped upward to well over 14,000 in the past two years, thanks mostly to organizing the digital media sector of key sites including Slate, the Huffington Post, Salon and Vice. That’s added more than 1,000 new members.

“It’s very heartening at a tough time for organized labor and it’s a tribute to the patience and endurance of our organizers,” says Willimon.

Goodman and Willimon were both elected in September, succeeding Howard Rodman and Michael Winship, respectively. They both say there’s no plan to revise the guild’s policy on awards eligibility, which disqualified Martin McDonagh’s Oscar-nommed screenplay “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Recent nominees and winners of the Academy’s prize that were excluded from the guild competition include “Birdman,” “Brooklyn,” “Lion,” “Room” and “The Theory of Everything.”

Goodman notes that the guild policy is derived partly from the WGA possessing the ultimate authority to determine credit on screenplays, dating back to the guild’s origins. “If it’s not done under our contract, we don’t celebrate it,” he adds.

“We view the awards as a celebration of great writing and a way to bring attention to out guild, so we’re not going to change the rules,” Willimon says.

More Biz

  • Bert Salke and Jennifer Salke

    Feds Looked Into Amazon Studios Chief Jennifer Salke in College Admissions Scandal

    Federal investigators looked into Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and her husband, Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke, as they conducted a sprawling probe of cheating in elite college admissions, a source close to the case told Variety. It does not appear, however, that prosecutors will charge the Salkes in the case. The Salkes [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    Big Blackout Looms as CBS, AT&T Go Down to Wire on Renewal Talks

    A blackout affecting CBS stations in major markets throughout the country looms as CBS and AT&T executives go down to the wire on negotiations for a retransmission consent deal covering 28 O&O stations. The sides have sparred publicly during the past few days as 11 p.m. PT Friday expiration of the previous contract approached. AT&T [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    ICM Responds to WGA Packaging Lawsuit: Claims are 'Baseless' and 'Absurd'

    ICM Partners has asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed against four major talent agencies by the Writers Guild of America as part of the larger war between agencies and the guild over packaging fees on TV series and movies. The guild sued ICM, CAA, WME and UTA in California state court in April, [...]

  • New York City NYC Placeholder

    CityFM Podcast Takes a Deep Look at New York’s Music Scene (Listen)

    First among the many projects listed at the beginning of New York Music Month in June was a WNYE radio show and podcast called CityFM that promised to “explore the city’s music culture, emerging artists and trends, and upcoming events told through the lens of what’s happening around the city in Summer 2019.” And while [...]

  • Live Nation Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Live Nation)

    Live Nation Confirms Placing Tickets Directly on Secondary Market at Artists’ Request

    Representatives for Live Nation, the world’s largest live-entertainment company and owner of Ticketmaster, confirmed that it bypassed conventional channels and directly placed thousands of concert tickets on the secondary market upon artists’ request, in an article published in Billboard. In a statement shared with Variety, the company acknowledged that it has facilitated the transfer of [...]

  • Costume designer Michele Clapton

    Costume Designers Fashion a Plan to Fight for Pay Parity in Upcoming Contract Talks

    The Costume Designers Guild Local 892 is gearing up to fight for pay equity in its 2021 contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, establishing a pay-equity committee to raise awareness of the scale disparity between the mostly female CDG membership and the mostly male membership of the Art Directors Guild Local [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content