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David Slack

CANDIDATE STATEMENT

If you’ve been to a WGA meeting in the last year, you know we’re about to face some tough challenges. Our leadership will be tested. So will our solidarity. That’s why I’m running for the Board with three colleagues who share my goals, values, and ideas about how our Guild should best serve writers. PATTI CARR, ASHLEY GABLE, DERIC A. HUGHES, and I will work together to make real progress on our shared priorities:

STRONG NEGOTIATIONS • SUPPORT FOR SCREENWRITERS • NO UNPAID WRITING • INCLUSION & EQUITY • COLLECTIVE ENFORCEMENT

 

STRONG NEGOTIATIONS

We have two crucial negotiations coming up. In 2019, we will renegotiate our contract with the Agencies (The AMBA) for the first time in over 40 years. If we back down now, we may never get another chance. We need a Board that will hold the line on TV packaging, but we shouldn’t stop there. Our agents should agree in writing that it’s their responsibility to get us paid on time, to protect us from free writing, and to aid enforcement by sending our contracts to the WGA.

As a Trustee of our Health and Pension Fund, I can assure you that the gains from our last contract have put both plans in good shape. So in our next MBA negotiation, we have an opportunity to make significant gains in other areas. In addition to raising minimums across the board, we should demand an end to unpaid writing, script parity for all platforms, better terms for our new family leave policy, and real change on how the studios handle sexual harassment.

 

SUPPORT FOR SCREENWRITERS

In preparing to run, Ashley, Patti, Deric, and I talked to many screenwriters about the state of the feature business. The overwhelming headline: It’s the Wild West. Freewrites and late pay are rampant. The MBA rules are so far off from how things actually work that there’s no simple fix. Many screenwriters are hard at work trying to address these problems, but they need help from all members. First rule of unions: If you mess with one of us, you answer to all of us.

We must tackle pre-writing and leave-behinds; apply high-level pressure to studios that are the worst offenders on late pay, free writing, and one-step deals; expand use of the Screenwriter Start Button to aid in enforcement, and reform our credits system to help all screenwriters who work on a script grow their careers. We need a Board that will make these issues a top priority and organize multiple sustained enforcement campaigns to change the culture of violations in features. As a Show Captain, I organized my TV staff to file late pay claims as a group – and no one on that show was ever paid late again. I’ll use those same skills to help screenwriters get the fair treatment and on-time pay they deserve.

 

NO UNPAID WRITING

Freewrites aren’t just a big problem in features. From packet submissions in comedy/variety, to bake-off and sweepstakes pitches in features and TV development, to that last “polish” that’s way more than a polish when there are no steps left on your deal, writers across our industry are increasingly expected to write for free in order to get the job – and then write for free again in order to keep it. The producers and execs asking us to do this don’t work for free. Why should we?

The trick is addressing this in a way that embraces the way our business actually works. Who wants to stop and negotiate when you’re fighting a deadline or rushing to make a sale? Our next MBA negotiation should include built-in, real-world solutions. Even a small basic minimum payment for packet submissions could be a game-changer for comedy/variety writers. We should demand a new basic minimum for writers participating in bake-offs and sweepstakes pitches so everyone gets paid for their time and ideas. We should expand the “2.4 weeks per episode” concept won in our last negotiation into features and TV development. If the work goes beyond a set time period, it should trigger more payments. We should expand billable writing beyond Story, Outline, etc. to include any written material submitted to a signatory or its affiliate. If we write, we should get paid. Period.

 

INCLUSION & EQUITY

By every metric available, our industry shows systemic discrimination against writers who are women, people of color, LGBT+, and disabled. While this problem is ultimately the companies’ responsibility, these unfair practices hurt our members and place our entire industry at risk of major lawsuits. Fixing discrimination isn’t just a good deed – it’s good business.

As a member of the WGA’s Inclusion & Equity Committee, I work to help members who have been shut out for far too long. As a member of our Board, I could do even more. We can use the Guild’s resources to get up-to-date employment data that document the scope of the problem. We can help implement fair hiring practices among the studios and our own members. We can promote and expand programs like the Writer Access Project (which my fellow candidate, Ashley Gable, helped start.) And in our next MBA negotiation, we must demand real progress on how companies handle sexual harassment and discrimination. Right now, the HR response varies wildly from one studio to the next – and unequal justice isn’t justice at all. In our next MBA negotiation, we must demand standardization of sexual harassment policy, training, and enforcement across all signatories. We should set a target date for the creation of a third-party reporting system, and a fair, standardized, and transparent system of investigation.

 

COLLECTIVE ENFORCEMENT

Most enforcement issues stem from one simple mistake – we bargain collectively,  but we do enforcement alone. The strength of our union is in collective action. So why are we expecting TV staff writers and entry-level screenwriters to file claims against multibillion dollar corporations by themselves? Trust me, if they did it to one of us, they did it to a hundred. We need to organize members and present violations to the studios as a united front. We can do more campaigns like the TV “Get Paid On Time” initiative Patti Carr and I led with the Captains Enforcement Working Group. We can collect and publish stats on studio compliance, rewarding the best studios to work for – and giving those further down the list a reason to do better. We can use technology like the Screenwriter Start Button and our Dues Online system to automatically flag late pay and help with collective enforcement. When we let small violations slide, it doesn’t just hurt individual members – it hurts our solidarity and our negotiating power. We can stand up for ourselves and make our union stronger.

I’m sure most members agree with us on these issues. But agreeing isn’t enough. We need a Board that will continue to take on tough challenges and get results. PATTI CARR, ASHLEY GABLE, DERIC A. HUGHES, and I have all been active in the Guild for over ten years. We are in firm agreement about the issues, and we are ready to take action. Please vote for the four of us so we can join our current Board and work together to get things done.

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