The membership of WGA East has ratified a change to the union’s constitution, cementing a compromise between traditional TV and film writers and newer members who work in digital media.
The amendment passed overwhelmingly, with 98% of the votes in favor. Turnout was 24%.
The constitutional change creates three “work sectors” within the union: Film/TV/Streaming, Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News and Online Media. Each sector will bargain separately for contracts and vote separately for union vice presidents, though the entire membership will still vote together for the top leadership posts of president and secretary-treasurer.
“I’m proud of the union and the way in which our officers and Council representatives have worked together, facing what often seemed to be intractable issues, yet reaching consensus,” said Michael Winship, president of the union, in a statement. “We now stand united and determined just as we confront the big fights ahead, from next year’s MBA negotiations with the studios and networks to building and enforcing strong contracts for our new shops.”
WGA East has about 6,500 members, and has been growing in recent years by organizing digital newsrooms, including Slate, Salon, Vox and The Intercept. But that has led to some consternation among the union’s traditional membership — film and TV writers based in New York — who make more money, and who are concerned about the governance of the union-backed pension and health plans.
In July 2021, the union paused new organizing efforts, amid fears that the digital media members might soon make up a majority of the guild. The rival camps formed competing factions in the union elections last September. The digital media side — the Solidarity slate — won seven of 11 contested seats on the WGA East council, with just four of the seats going to the Inclusion & Experience slate, which represented the traditional membership.
After several months of negotiations, the council reached an agreement that had the support of both sides. The deal means that members’ contracts will be negotiated and voted on by the members who work under them. Organizing resumed in February, and council has pursued a new organizing strategy to “grow the Guild equitably across all sectors,” including writers working in podcasts, comedy/variety and non-scripted TV.