Tom Schulman on Writers Guild: ‘We Have Unprecedented Solidarity’

Dave McNary

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Oscar-winning screenwriter Tom Schulman has issued a strong endorsement for David Goodman for re-election as president of the Writers Guild of America West.

In an email to WGA West members Wednesday, Schulman took issue with the claim by the opposition Writers Forward Together slate that they have never seen the Guild so divided. He noted that more than 7,000 members voted in March to support the leadership’s Code of Conduct to ban agency packaging fees and affiliate ownership, while around 300 opposed.

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“In my 33 years as a Guild member, I’ve never seen anything close to 7,000 members turn out to vote on anything,” he said. “Far from divided, we have unprecedented solidarity.”

Schulman won an Academy Award for “Dead Poets Society” and has credits on “Welcome to Mooseport” and “What About Bob.” He was vice president of the WGA West from 2009-2011, and served on the board of directors from 2005-2009 — which featured a bitter 100-day strike in 2007-08.

He also said in the email that the Writers Forward Together is sending the wrong message to companies for next year’s negotiations on a successor deal to the current master contract. That slate, headed by Phyllis Nagy, is running on a platform that highlights the need for the WGA to resume negotiations with the major agencies. Goodman has opted for talks with individual agencies since June. Ballots went out Aug. 29 to about 10,000 members with results announced Sept. 16.

“Our power comes from our solidarity and our willingness to strike if necessary,” he said in his email. “Absent those, history tells us we gain little. I served two terms on the Guild board and on three negotiating committees. I’ve seen first-hand how leadership preparation and style impact negotiations.”

“Forward Together insists the upcoming MBA contract negotiations in 2020 are important, that we must be prepared, and I wholeheartedly agree,” Schulman added. “But we will be negotiating against the most powerful entertainment companies in the world, and those companies constantly take our measure. They see if we’re organizing, they see if we’re willing to take strike authorization votes, and most importantly they see how well we’re holding together. How we comport ourselves now, in this negotiation, right in front of the companies is our preparation for 2020.”

The current WGA master contract expires on May 1 while the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA deals conclude on June 30. No talks have been scheduled by any of the guilds with the companies, which negotiate through the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

“If we can’t hold together now, after a 95% vote in support of this campaign — in a situation where, unlike in a normal strike, writers are working! — the companies will know we have little hope of maintaining solidarity or a successful strike threat against them next year — and probably not for a long time to come,” Schulman said.

He also endorsed Goodman’s allies, including Marjorie David for vice president; Michele Mulroney for secretary-treasurer; and board candidates Liz Alper, Angelina Burnett, Robb Chavis, Dante Harper, Zoe Marshall, Luvh Rakhe, Meredith Stiehm and Nicole Yorkin.

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