This is not the most important election you will be voting in this year, so rather than craft a lengthy statement, I’ll stick to the highlights.
I am running for the Board this year with three colleagues who share my goals and values about how our Guild should best serve writers in the next two years. ASHLEY GABLE, DAVID SLACK, DERIC A. HUGHES and I share the following priorities:
INCLUSION & EQUITY. NEGOTIATIONS. SCREENWRITER ISSUES. UNPAID WRITING. ENFORCEMENT.
Over the next two years, the WGA faces two critical negotiations – the Agency contract (AMBA) and the next Studio contract (MBA.) Both offer important potential gains for writers, but making gains will require unprecedented solidarity and member communication. The commitment showed during the 2017 MBA Negotiations (our 96.3% strike authorization vote) proved we can do it. As a Board member, my goal would be maintaining that level of solidarity over two negotiations in order to protect all writers, not just those directly impacted by packaging or other big money issues.
The WGA at times seems to focus on economically dominant TV issues while sidelining the concerns of writers in other fields. Screenwriters have felt this for the last several negotiations, while Comedy/Variety, Children’s Television, Daytime, Video Game, Digital and others feel they have never gotten the full protection of their Guild. Where this is true, it creates false divisions which the companies exploit to trade gains for a few writers against losses for others. This needs to change. In the last MBA, the WGA broke ground with the 2.4 week formula that compensates TV writers for their time as well as their writing. This principle should be utilized to make gains for all writers, including Screen. Other issues such as late pay and the downward pressure of One-Step deals must also be addressed. Through internal organizing and the upcoming negotiations , I believe we can make progress for Screenwriters, including an issue that affects us all – unpaid writing.
The WGA’s recent Screenwriter survey revealed that screenwriters are increasingly forced to perform uncompensated writing before selling an idea or getting a job. They are not alone. This year, Comedy/Variety writers turned to the WGA for help fighting increasingly lengthy writing samples which had become conditions of employment. Meanwhile TV writers, both in development and on shows, regularly submit written materials in place of pitches, including what amounts to Formats and Bibles under our MBA. Sweepstakes pitching, producer-requested spec scripts, elaborate “look books,” and requests to leave behind written material – these growing abuses affect everyone. I believe there are enforceable solutions to these problems, and that we must address unpaid writing in the upcoming contract negotiations.
Inclusion & Equity
Marginalizing workplace issues because they affect a minority of members is wrong. In the case of gender and racial discrimination, it’s morally offensive as well. This year the WGA Board took up the problem of sexual harassment for the first time, which is not something to be entirely proud of. Nor should we be satisfied that (despite a serious ongoing effort) we haven’t achieved real-world change. In the next two years, I want the WGA to commit to specific goals. First, creation of a third party system of reporting and oversight, either through the industry commission headed by Anita Hill or by other means. Second, we need concrete ways of addressing inclusion and pay equity which I believe can be supported through the AMBA and MBA contracts. Finally, the WGA needs to collect and make available data on hiring practices and salary discrepancies, not just so we can observe how nothing has changed, but to demand the change women and people of color are legally entitled to.
“Enforcement” tends to be a vague campaign buzzword -- everyone supports the concept, but there is enough disagreement so that nothing gets done. This year, David Slack and I were part of a committee to enforce late pay in TV. This simple campaign has resulted in the WGA’s ability to file for interest payments on behalf of entire writing staffs. Late pay has an adverse financial effect on members, and lax enforcement undermines our contract. Another important aspect of enforcement is how we approach our pattern of demands. Through my service on the Audit & Delinquency Committee of our Pension and Health Trust, I’ve seen that a contractual “win” is meaningless unless we can audit and enforce it.
No current WGA Board Member or candidate I know substantially disagrees with me on these issues. But I also know how easily ideas can get talked to death or lost “in committee.” ASHLEY GABLE, DAVID SLACK, DERIC A. HUGHES and I agree not just on the issues, but also on getting results. All four of us have been active in the WGA for over ten years. We value communication, solidarity, collective action, and resolve. Personally, I don’t want to serve on the Board without them. Please vote for the four of us so we can get stuff done.