By an overwhelming margin, the combined membership of the Writers of Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) have approved the guilds’ “pattern of demands” for upcoming contract negotiations with the Assn. of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and TV networks.
Nearly 96% of the 3,176 guild members casting ballots ratified the demands, an increase of 32% over the lead up to the last WGA negotiations in 2004, according to the guilds. Negotiations are slated to begin July 16, with the unions’ joint minimum basic agreement expiring Oct. 31.
The betting money in Hollywood is that writers want actors on their side in the event of a work stoppage and, if negotiations stall, the first industry strike since 1988 would wait until next summer, so that it would coincide with the expiration of pacts for the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America.
Commenting on the election outcome, John Bowman, chair of the WGA’s 2007 Negotiating Committee and WGAW board member, said in a statement, “I am pleased our members have given this pattern such a clear vote of confidence. As the media conglomerates’ revenues continue to grow, our objective is to negotiate a deal guaranteeing writers a fair share of an ever-growing pie. Whether it’s on your big screen, a flat screen or a computer screen, it’s all content – and writers, like other creative artists, should be fairly compensated for what they create.”
Chris Albers, president of the WGAE, concurred, saying, “The two Writers Guilds may be separate unions, but our members couldn’t be more in synch when it comes to defining the issues for the upcoming negotiation. I am thrilled that WGAE members joined WGAW members in giving the pattern of demands their almost unanimous support.”
The principal focus of demands is new media, both the writing of new material for the Internet, and reuse of movies and TV shows on all non-traditional platforms. Industry executives have countered that they need as many new revenue streams as possible to cover rising production costs and keep the workforce working.
In addition, the guilds seek to expand their current jurisdiction in largely non-covered areas, such as reality television, animation, game shows and other non-fiction programming, an effort that has so far been largely futile.