WGA Membership Asked for Strike Authorization

(released 10/5/2007)

The MBA (Minimum Basic Agreement) contract between the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) Minimum Basic Agreement is set to expire on October 31, 2007. Talks have been going on since the summer, but negotiations have just begun.

So far, both sides seem to have polar ideas of how residuals should be taken care of with regards to new media. The producers want to cover their costs before paying out residuals to the writers. The writers want to be paid residuals for use of their copyright each time their work is used.

On October 1, 2007, the WGA mailed out letters and ballots to its approximate 12,000 members that would affected by the MBA. The leadership is calling for an authorization to strike. Their position is to get as much support from the masses to gain power at the negotiating table. Both wga.org and wgaeast.org state that a strike is the last thing they would want to happen and that the letter is not calling for an immediate strike.

Below is a copy of the letter that was mailed.

October 1, 2007

Dear WGA Member:

You are undoubtedly aware that our current 2007 MBA negotiations are potentially the most important in a generation. At stake are serious issues that affect writers, including coverage of writing for the Internet, cell phones and other new media; residuals for reuse on new media; the home video (DVD) residuals formula; and Guild coverage of animation and reality.

Because the stakes are so high, it is necessary to empower your negotiators with the tools needed to make the best possible deal.We are writing to request that WGA members vote to authorize the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council to call a strike in the event that a fair and reasonable contract cannot be negotiated with the networks and studios. This is a step that unions regularly take, and that we have taken in the past, particularly in negotiations where fundamental issues regarding our future are on the table.

What is the status of negotiations?

We have done extensive preparation for these negotiations. The elected leadership and Negotiating Committee, in consultation with our sister talent guilds and assisted by our staffs, spent months researching the state of the industry and crafting our proposals. This process produced a set of proposals which are fair and reasonable. We are not interested in breaking the bank or righting every past wrong.We want to see the industry continue to succeed and grow. But we must ensure that writers keep up with that growth and success, and participate in the revenue generated by our work in new markets.

Since talks began on July 16, the Companies have refused to engage in serious negotiations. Instead, they have rejected each of our proposals and responded with a "comprehensive" proposal of their own: thirtytwo pages of draconian rollbacks that would eviscerate virtually every gain that writers have made in the past 50 years. The full text of the Companies' proposal, as well as the WGA proposals, may be viewed in the Contract 2007 section of our websites, wga.org or wgaeast.org. It suffices to say here that the Companies' proposal would effectively eliminate residuals, separated rights and credits as we know them, and leave the WGA without coverage of product written for new media.

Are the Companies serious about this proposal? They can't be. They know that it is unacceptable to every writer, director and actor in Hollywood. But they have left the rollbacks on the table and refuse to address the significant issues that must be resolved in these negotiations. This may be a stall tactic, or it may reflect the Companies' belief that they can get a better deal from another union.Whatever the reasons, it is apparent that the Companies do not yet feel the pressure to conduct serious negotiations. That is why the Negotiating Committee and elected leadership have taken the serious step of asking you to authorize a strike.

Why now?

The WGA leadership has met face to face with thousands of our members over the past two years in order to hear your views and prepare for these negotiations. We have also worked to forge a negotiating alliance with the Screen Actors Guild based on our common issues.We know that they stand with us in their determination to secure a good contract in this cycle of negotiations. Perhaps as a result of this alliance, there has been speculation in the press about the WGA working past its contract expiration of October 31, 2007 to line up with the Screen Actors Guild in June 2008.

Our strategic alliance with SAG is strong, and working past our contract expiration remains an option. But our proposals are reasonable, and the WGA's goal remains to negotiate a fair agreement now.What we cannot do is make a weak deal that we will regret for the next 20 years. It is vital to ensure that writers keep up with the great success of this industry, a success of which we are primary creators.

Does a yes vote mean there will be a strike?

No. The Guild's leadership will do everything in its power to avoid a work stoppage. A yes vote means that you are giving the elected leadership — the WGAW Board and WGAE Council, in consultation with the Negotiating Committee — the authority to call a strike at the right strategic moment if it becomes necessary to do so.We assure you that we will exercise this responsibility with the fullest degree of prudence and restraint.

The members of the Negotiating Committee,WGAW Board and WGAE Council unanimously voted to seek strike authorization at this time. Our names appear below.We are asking the membership to act with the same unity and seriousness of purpose in granting this request. Please vote yes.

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