Writers Guild Reveals Studio Deal Details, Says Pandemic Limited Leverage

WGAW

Significant parts of the deal – particularly concerning streaming residuals – mirror the gains achieved by the Directors Guild and SAG-AFTRA.

The Writers Guild of America emailed its members Wednesday, disclosing details of the new three-year TV/theatrical deal reached Tuesday night with the major studios and saying that the coronavirus pandemic and economic circumstances had hindered its campaign to achieve many desired gains for writers.

Significant parts of the deal – particularly concerning streaming residuals – mirror the gains achieved by the Directors Guild and SAG-AFTRA, and the WGA negotiating committee also said it fended off damaging rollbacks.

“We also improved protections for television writers in the area of options and exclusivity … and expanded the number of writers covered by the span protections first negotiated in 2017,” said the email. But it added that “the ongoing global pandemic and economic uncertainty limited our ability to exercise real collective power to achieve many other important and necessary contract goals.”

The guild had publicly disclosed in over half a dozen emails an ambitious agenda, but in the end, most of those items were not realized in the new deal. 

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Read the email:

Dear Members,

Today the MBA Negotiating Committee unanimously approved a tentative agreement with the AMPTP for the 2020-2023 Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA). We are recommending the WGAW Board and WGAE Council send the agreement to the WGA membership for a ratification vote later this month.

Upon ratification, the agreement and the minimum increases would be retroactive to May 2, 2020 and would expire on May 1, 2023.  

Many of the new terms track those recently negotiated by other guilds, including increases in SVOD residuals, the lowering of SVOD budget breaks, and elimination of almost all SVOD grandfathering, as well as rollbacks, including syndication residuals.

We were able to fight off significant writer-centric rollbacks, which would have been very damaging if they’d made it into the MBA.

In addition, as part of an overall package valued at more than $200 million over three years, we were able to achieve several writer-specific gains. 

    The writer training and new writer discounts that undercut screen and television minimums and disproportionately impacted underrepresented groups have been eliminated. 

    A new paid parental leave fund available to all writers who qualify for health insurance was established, with benefits beginning in May 2021. The benefit will be entirely funded by an employer contribution of .5% on writers’ earnings.

    Our pension fund will receive an immediate 1.5% contribution increase to 10%, with the ability to divert an additional 1.25% from minimums, if needed, over the final two years of the contract. This increased funding of our pension plan, totaling 2.75% over the term of the contract, was a vital goal of this negotiation and sets our plan on a much firmer foundation.

    We also improved protections for television writers in the area of options and exclusivity, including specific limitations on options after short periods of employment, and expanded the number of writers covered by the span protections first negotiated in 2017.

Although the ongoing global pandemic and economic uncertainty limited our ability to exercise real collective power to achieve many other important and necessary contract goals, we remain committed to pursuing those goals in future negotiations.

We thank all of you who supported the goals of the negotiation and this committee. More details about the deal will be posted after the agreement has been reviewed by the WGAW Board and WGAE Council.

In solidarity,

MBA Negotiating Committee

Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair

Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair

Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair

Liz Alper

Arash Amel

John August

Amy Berg

Ashley Nicole Black

Adam Brooks

Francesca Butler

Patti Carr

Robb Chavis

Meg DeLoatch

Travis Donnelly

Kate Erickson

Dante W. Harper

Eric Heisserer

Melissa London Hilfers

Elliott Kalan

Chris Keyser

Adele Lim

Peter Murrieta

Luvh Rakhe

Dailyn Rodriguez

Erica Saleh

Sara Schaefer

David Slack

Lauren Ashley Smith

Meredith Stiehm

Patric M. Verrone

David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio

Marjorie David, Ex-Officio

Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio

Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio

Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio