WGA East members have voted overwhelmingly to approve changes to the guild’s constitution that are designed to ensure a more “balanced representation” of members by bridging the divide between those who work in film, TV and broadcasting, and those employed in digital newsrooms.
The referendum, which was approved by a vote of 1,567-40 (98%-2%), includes the creation of three work-sector vice presidents covering members who work in Film/TV/Streaming, Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News, and Online Media.
“I’m proud of the union and the way in which our officers and council representatives have worked together, facing what often seemed to be intractable issues, yet reaching consensus,” guild president Michael Winship said Thursday. “We now stand united and determined just as we confront the big fights ahead, from next year’s MBA negotiations with the studios and networks to building and enforcing strong contracts for our new shops.”
In a statement, the guild said that its WGAE Council “has spent this year working together, as well as with guild staff and an outside facilitator and outside labor lawyer, to create the proposed changes, which will ensure that each sector controls its own benefits and contracts without interference. This will be accomplished by proportional representation on the Council, based on current membership demographics, and a new election structure in which members will only vote for leadership representatives of their own work sector.”
The council, which voted unanimously to recommend membership approval of the referendum on the constitutional changes, has also approved a new organizing resolution that equitably supports the organizing of writers in all of the union’s work sectors. According to the guild, “The organizing resolution created a committee made up of Council members from all work areas who already are meeting to advise and consult with staff about potential organizing targets as well as an overall, logical and long-range organizing strategy.”
Only a few years ago, the vast majority of the guild’s members were film and scripted television writers. But over the past six years, an aggressive campaign to organize dozens of digital news outlets like Salon, Slate and HuffPost began to change the union’s demographics so dramatically that its broadcast and digital news members were on the verge of becoming a majority of the guild’s membership.
Just last year, guild leaders were so concerned about the guild’s shifting demographics that they talked openly about spinning off their digital news members into a separate union. Those concerns played out last summer during the guild’s officer and council elections, with secretary-treasurer-elect Chris Kyle, running unopposed, warning that the influx of digital news writers and producers posed “an existential threat to the guild” that could lead to it “collapsing.”
During those elections, Winship told Deadline that the organizing of digital media had “triggered a flow” of so many new members “that we needed to stop for a while – just pause for a while – and access where we are.”
The guild’s opposition Solidarity slate, however, dominated the contested council races, campaigning on the belief that “it’s important that we continue to organize the entire industry.”
The two sides mended their fences in February when the council voted unanimously to resume organizing digital newsrooms, with the guild saying that “As the media industry continues to unionize across sectors, the WGAE Council is deliberating how to address changes in the make-up of the guild’s membership and how to ensure that the union can meet the needs of all members – in digital and broadcast news, podcasts, scripted and nonfiction television, feature films, and public broadcasting.”
In April, Winship said: “I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that it has been a learning process in which everyone exchanged ideas and listened to one another. Now we have united. I’m enthusiastic about the result and the next chapter for this brave union of storytellers.”
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