Members of the Writers Guild of America East have overwhelmingly approved the union leadership’s proposed changes to its constitution and structure, allowing the guild to continue unionization of digital media outlets while ensuring protection for contracts and benefits specific to both media and film/TV writers.
The proposed changes were approved with 98% of the vote, with only 40 members voting against. Twenty-four percent of all members participated in the vote.
The changes will divide the union into three work sectors — film/television, broadcast media and online media — with each one being overseen by a vice president. The WGAE Council will be restructured with each sector having a number of seats proportionate to current membership counts, with members only voting on representatives within their work sector.
Last year, the future of WGA East’s organizing plans for digital media looked murky amid concerns from film and television writers that their labor needs would be overlooked. Since 2015, the WGA East has organized thousands of media writers at sites like Gizmodo and Vox, so much so that the number of digital media members of WGAE soon outnumbered those for scripted programming.
“Because our guild when it was formed never contemplated having a significant portion of membership work in a different industry, there’s parts of our constitution that we feel are an awkward fit. We don’t feel that it would be appropriate for a digital member to be on a negotiating committee for a contract that they don’t participate in,” WGAE secretary-treasure Chris Kyle told TheWrap this past September.
After a guild election in which supporters of continued digital media unionization won seats on the WGAE Council while traditional writers — including President Michael Winship — took the top leadership positions, the two sides spent months ironing out the newly approved union structure with the assistance outside facilitators and legal counsel. In a statement, Winship praised the union’s leaders and members for coming together to find a solution that addressed the concerns of all types of writers in WGA East.
“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,” Winship said. “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.”