As the WGA prepares for its upcoming negotiations for a new film and TV contract, guild leaders are telling their members to beware of “misleading and provocative information” that “may appear in the press or social media.”
“What kinds of tactics might we expect from the companies?” the guild asks in a series of frequently asked questions posted on its website. “You might hear attacks on the guild and its leadership. These tactics are often used to scare, confuse and weaken member solidarity.”
“Take rumors and unsubstantiated claims with a grain of salt,” the guild advised its members. “Make sure to consider the source and motivations of comments about WGA goals, strategies, tactics and priorities. It is wise to avoid talking about negotiations with company representatives during negotiations. Though you may have close creative and social relationships with studio executives, be aware of information gathering that could take the form of friendly, seemingly well-intentioned conversations.”
“What happens if we go on strike?” the guild asks. “The WGA leadership may call a strike only after the membership has authorized it and the current contract has expired.” The current pact expires on May 1.
“If a strike is called, members are prohibited from performing covered writing services for companies that don’t have an agreement with the WGA. To demonstrate our unity and resolve, writers picket and engage in other actions that put pressure on the AMPTP to better their offer. Negotiations can continue during a strike. A strike can give us the leverage needed to secure meaningful economic gains for writers. It can also be financially challenging for members. In the event of a strike, a strike fund committee will oversee the Guild’s $18 million strike fund for members facing hardships due to the action. Members facing financial hardship may also be eligible for assistance through the Good and Welfare Emergency Assistance Fund. More specific information will be posted in the event of a work action.”
The guild last struck the industry in 2007-08. That strike lasted 100 days.
The guild is also offering advice on how members can stay informed during the upcoming negotiations. “During negotiations, the parties sometimes agree to a ‘media blackout,’ in which both sides agree not to discuss specifics about how negotiations are proceeding with the media. Since member messages leak to the press, the guild may pause member communications at times. Members will always be notified, however, when there are significant developments.
To stay better informed, we encourage you to join a member team with a guild captain. Your captain can help address your questions and concerns and let you know about opportunities to engage with fellow guild members.”
Captains, the guild said, “represent a team of writers by communicating members’ questions and concerns to guild leadership and staff and helping to mobilize members in support of the campaign.”
Earlier this month, WGA members overwhelmingly approved a pattern of demands that the guild will take to the bargaining table with management’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
One of those demands would “require signatory companies to negotiate only with agents franchised by the WGA.” That could spark a strike because it seeks to drag the major studios and production companies into the guild’s 10-month battle with Hollywood’s major talent agencies. The AMPTP flatly rejected a similar proposal last March when the guild, seeking to reopen contract negotiations, asked the companies to participate in what the AMPTP called a “group boycott” of talent agencies that refused to sign the WGA’s Agency Code of Conduct, which banned packaging fees and agency affiliations with corporately related production entities.
Doing so would subject the companies to “a substantial risk of liability for antitrust violation,” AMPTP president Carol Lombardini said in a letter last March to WGA West executive director David Young. A month later, the WGA ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refused to sign the code, and days later, the guild filed an antitrust lawsuit against several of the biggest agencies, which in turn filed suit against the guild, claiming that it was engaged in an “unlawful group boycott.”
“The 2020 Minimum Basic Agreement negotiations will take place in the context of an expanding media industry that is experiencing record profits,” WGA West president David A. Goodman and WGA East president Beau Willimon told their members on Feb. 7. “The broad goal of our negotiating committee will be to build on the gains achieved in past contracts, and to ensure that writers receive their fair share of the proceeds generated by the content they create.”
No date has been set yet for the negotiations to begin, but they won’t start until after the Directors Guild wraps up its negotiations for a new contract. The DGA’s contract talks with the AMPTP got underway on Feb. 10.
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