WGA East President Michael Winship Appointed at Demos Research and Policy Center

5:46 PM PST 05/17/2011 by Jonathan Handel

Meanwhile, the guild reports on a busy year of negotiations, organizing and training programs.

Demos, a New York-based national research and policy center, announced today that WGA East president Michael Winship has become a new Senior Writing Fellow. The appointment takes effect immediately.

Demos is a non-partisan organization with a liberal bent. Winship’s focus will include the role of money in political decision-making, an issue that’s taken on renewed urgency since the Supreme Court decision last year eliminating bans on corporate political spending in candidate elections – and, of course, in light of the 2012 presidential election, with campaigning already underway.

Meanwhile, Winship’s colleague Lowell Peterson, the WGAE executive director, has been doing some writing of his own, presenting an 8 page annual report last week to guild members and the organization’s governing council. Among the activities he highlighted were efforts by the guild to enhance employment opportunities by seeking foundation grants for short-form public affairs programs made for the Internet, creating tax credits for writing work, and other means. Peterson acknowledged that this was new ground for the guild: “We are still learning how to do this work, but I think it will be an important part of our efforts to ensure that the Guild remains vital to writers in the years ahead.”

Peterson also pointed to new collective bargaining agreements reached with CBS (for news writers), the three major public television producers, and, of course, the new three-year agreement with the AMPTP, which he said took place in part “against the backdrop of the long and successful Writers Guild strike in 2007-2008.”

Also highlighted was the WGAE’s effort to organize nonfiction basic cable where, Peterson wrote, “hundreds of talented, experienced people toil long hours for mediocre pay and no benefits.” The guild strategy, he explained, was to file National Labor Relations Board election petitions at a number of companies at the same time in order to build a critical mass. According to Peterson, the NLRB has already certified the WGAE as the representative of employees at Atlas Media and Lion Television, and the union won majority votes at lTV Studios and anticipates a majority of ballots at Optomen Productions.

Earlier this month, Lion agreed to recognize the guild as bargaining agent for the employees, and the guild expects to begin negotiations soon.

In new media, Peterson acknowledged that “the financial and creative models ... are mostly unformed,” and outlined a program of past and future education and training. That effort has included courses on how to use Final Cut Pro editing software, signaling a recognition of the hyphenate roles that writers may play on new media.

In a perhaps ironic sign of the times, the union also relaunched its publication on the craft of writing in “a new digital format”: video interviews with prominent writers. Sometimes, it seems, even the Writers Guild decides the written word isn’t enough.

Email: jhandel@att.net
Twitter: @jhandel

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