WGAW saved up for a rainy day

Report: Guild's strike fund a healthy $9.2 million

A week before the start of negotiations on the WGA's all-important film and TV contract, the WGA West has issued an annual report boasting a bulging strike kitty.

The $9.2 million strike fund was established in 1986 — the year following a two-week writers strike and two years before the five-month walkout of 1988. The WGAW also maintains a Good & Welfare Fund, totaling $3 million.

During strikes, the funds can be tapped to distribute loans or grants to qualifying members, with the guild's voting membership at almost 8,000.

In 1992, the strike fund was set to grow annually from an initial $6 million to account for cost-of-living adjustments. The 4,000-member WGA East — a more newswriter-dominated sister guild set to issue its annual report in September — has a strike fund of $2.7 million, a spokeswoman said.

WGAW and WGAE reps will meet with management-side negotiators in Los Angeles beginning July 16 to hash out a new minimum basic agreement for movie writers and most primetime scribes. The film and TV pact expires Oct. 31.

"These (strike and welfare) reserves are of crucial importance as we prepare for our upcoming MBA negotiations," the membership and finance committee wrote. "The expiration of our contract is less than four months away."

The WGAW distributed an estimated $3.4 million in fund loans during the 1988 strike.

In the guilds' upcoming talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, the WGAW and WGA East jointly will negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement with the AMPTP. Compensation issues related to digital media are expected to figure prominently in the talks.

Among other revelations in the WGAW annual report, guild revenue fell almost $100,000 in the fiscal year ending March 31, or less than 1%, to $22.3 million. Officials cited lower earnings under WGAW contracts for the dip as members' film earnings tumbled 3.2% and television earnings flattened.

Dues revenue dipped 1% to $18.5 million, but expenditures decreased $900,000 in the latest fiscal year, yielding a net surplus for the guild of $1.7 million. That compares with a deficit of $202,611 at the end of the previous 12-month reporting period.

Investment income increased 53% to $2.9 million in fiscal 2007.

Net assets increased about 6% to $32.3 million at the guild, which owns its Los Angeles headquarters and has an unused $4 million line of credit.