FOR WGA BOARD VICE PRESIDENT
Candidate Statement 2019
First things first: I’d like to thank all of you for your support over the years as I have run for and served on the board and as an officer at the guild. Anyone who knows me knows that working with and for writers is among the most important things in my life. The time has come to run again in the midst of a contentious campaign to require talent agencies to do away with conflicts of interest, so I’ll briefly address this first.
THE AMBA CAMPAIGN:
This board election will in part be decided on the basis of the candidates’ differing opinions about the strategy and ultimate goals of the agency campaign. I believe we were right to end the ATA contract. I want to see us find solutions that benefit writers by restoring the relationship between agents and writers to one where agents’ income is tied to ours. There are a number of paths to a resolution, including negotiations, that ameliorate the damage done to writers by conflicts of interest. I assure you that we are operating in good faith. We have been asked to “come back to the table,” but we are already sitting there. Our agreement with Verve, for instance, is a negotiated contract, and any agency willing to hash out their needs and ours, as one would in any meaningful negotiation, is welcome to join us. I know we will be talking about this more and in more detail in the days and weeks to come, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
The guild, however, is more than the agency negotiation, painful as it may be. Here are some guild functions and issues you should consider when voting for leadership. I want to continue working on all of them. Please note that my previous campaign statements remain on this site, so just scroll down if you want to know more on any of these topics. You may also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always happy to talk to members.
MBA negotiations begin in the spring. I’ve been a participant on past negotiating committees and never stop thinking about issues covered by our basic contract with the media companies. The Disney/Fox deal was not great for us or anyone else who works in Hollywood, and it means we’ll be facing even fewer legacy companies when we hash out the next MBA. There is one thing (more than one, but we’ll be discussing this with you further and soon) working for us, though – the stand alone streaming companies are not members of the AMPTP, even though they are guild signatories and subject to the terms of the MBA. Still, because of this, Netflix, Amazon and other streamers are open to negotiating separate terms with us. In fact, we negotiated a deal last year with Apple that is better than the MBA agreement on residuals for streaming. Also, the studios may be consolidating but delivery platforms are still developing and changing. The big companies haven’t got much motive to force a strike when they are trying to establish streaming services on their own, and the streamers, whose original content will determine their ability to stay in business as legacy content is withdrawn, certainly don’t want a strike, either. We will be further analyzing this situation as the months go by, but it creates a complex and interesting challenge.
While many of our basic bread and butter MBA issues, like the revenue situation above, become clear as we analyze data, members themselves guide our priorities. Screenwriters have been getting short shrift as fewer and fewer of them are employed by corporate film companies, and we want to make progress on such issues as one-step deals and bake-off pitching (which is spreading to TV as well). Please see my previous statements on this if you are interested; I analyze wins and losses in the last negotiation there.
In features and on staff, women and people in other protected groups are still woefully underrepresented. Some of this can be addressed through member education, some by putting public pressure on both show runners and production companies to diversify hiring. We have tried to get the studios to institute even so innocuous a contractual remedy as the Rooney Rule, but we were rebuffed. We will continue to raise this issue in negotiations.
In addition, based on what we are learning from members, we must continue to build on our work on parental leave; ending gratuitously low caps on some AVOD projects; the treatment and compensation of teams; expanded span protection and other matters. Do keep in touch with us on these and other subjects that matter to you. I have said before and will say again – an MBA negotiation involves a lot of horse trading and everything doesn’t happen at once. But even introducing a new concept to the talks opens a door and can eventually lead to change.
One more thing: our solidarity is the key to our success in any and all negotiations. We mustn’t underestimate our own power here. I know some writers have argued that the agency campaign will weaken us going into the MBA, but the only way that happens is if we act weak. That doesn’t mean we fail to adapt strategy with regard to the agents. It does mean that we stand up for a fair deal for our members.
#ME TOO/ SEXUAL HARASSMENT
This past year, I was co-chair of the board’s sexual harassment sub-committee. We created a series of workshops for writers in conjunction with RAINN to help writers deal with sexual harassment, gender bullying and witnessing abuse, primarily in writers room settings. Discussion and questionnaires from these workshops are helping us to create a guide to conduct for rooms in general. Meanwhile, Glen Mazzara, who was my co-chair before he left the board but who remains a head of the Inclusion and Equity Group, will be working with Nicole Yorkin to create a program for all writers at producer level and above on how to fairly and safely manage the fellow writers they supervise. We want to end the era of gender bullying (or any bullying) and harassment for good. In addition, we have made sure our employers are aware of their role in controlling the conditions under which writers work, both on film and television productions, with producers and in rooms. Studio HR has not functioned properly in victims’ behalf in the past. This is both an MBA matter and one we can deal with right now. For more information on our work in this area, please see the WGA web page.
INCLUSION AND EQUITY:
Inclusion and Equity is a subject the board and officers have seen as a priority since at least the time I came onto the board seven years ago. It was one of the initial reasons I ran. I was proud to join Meredith Stiehm, Nicole Yorkin and other men and women in promoting gender parity on the board itself; last election, we achieved it. We want to keep it that way, and we also want to elect more people from other under-represented groups.
COMMITTEE ADVISORY PANEL (CAP)
Please read the section about the Committee Advisory Panel, (CAP), posted here in my 2016 campaign statement. I love the CAP committees, which are made up of some of our most dynamic, talented, socially and politically active members. Many of the best programs the guild offers come out of these committees. I co-chair CAP with Luvh Rahke and I think he’d agree that this position is an honor and a pleasure. I’d like to continue my work helping these extraordinary writers.
THE WGA PAC
I saved the best for last. I got into this board leadership gig through political activism and from there, became a founding member of the WGA Political Action Committee. The national and local elections coming up in 2020 are enough to send everyone off to our newly legit drug dealeries in search of a break. But we can also do something constructive through the guild to help elect people who support the interests of writers. You can read more about the PAC in my other campaign statements on this page, and you will be hearing from us as the election gets under way. One thing: our original brief was limited to writer specific issues such as net neutrality and media consolidation. Not only did we find friends in Washington, but also we punched above our weight in shaping policy. Then came 2016; we all know what happened. We continue to fight and support our Congressional allies. We also have expanded our priorities to include issues connected with free speech, a writer issue if ever there was one, as well as support for the many people, including our members, who find their human rights under siege. The PAC has also expanded to support representatives and legislation in Sacramento, where we have found many friends. We’ve done more work on the ground, too, canvassing and demonstrating. Political activities are funded by voluntary contributions, by the way, not union dues. And thanks to our members’ generosity, hard work and the guidance of our political director Corri Freedman, as well as our other brilliant and dedicated staff, we continue growing in strength and influence.
And now -- can’t resist – a shout out to THE GUILD CAPTAINS. You rock. You’re the future of this union. You make me proud to be a part of it.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve as the WGAW Vice President. I hope you’ll find me worthy of a second term.
Here is my endorsement link:
I will add to this list as more information comes on line about candidates. For now, here are the reasons I support our incumbents. Links to endorse them are included:
I enthusiastically support DAVID GOODMAN for a second term as board President. Nobody could work harder, longer or more selflessly for this union. And while I have been cited as someone whose value lies in “institutional memory,” I have to say that Goodman’s memory goes back as far as mine. His awareness of the struggles our predecessors endured to secure our rights, as well as his comprehension of the continuing and evolving needs of the membership today, has enriched his tenure. I am honored to be able to serve beside him as we stand up for the rights and well-being of writers now and in the future. He has my vote and I hope he has yours.
MICHELE MULRONEY is running for secretary/treasurer and she is my choice for that job. Working with her over the past couple of years has been not only a pleasure but also an inspiration. She is among the board members who brought new hope and solidarity to screenwriters, invented the “start” button, and revived the CPSW, among other things. Michele has been indispensible on the sub-committee on sexual harassment; she was a moving force behind the RAINN workshops. She has been what I can only call a force of nature in the Agency campaign, a critical part of a board sub committee dedicated to making sure writers suffer as little as possible during staffing, development and finding OWAs until agents are back in the equation again. She is also on the membership and finance committee, which actually prepares her for the treasurer position – she understands the financial workings of the guild. Please support and vote for her. Endorse her here: https://michelemulroney.wufoo.com/forms/endorse-michele-mulroney-for-secretary-treasurer/
BOARD (alphabetical by first name – I think they are all terrific):
ANGELINA BURNETT - a great organizer and tireless worker on behalf of writers on every project she joins. She has been the driving force behind the current development of the producer/OWA listings for members, and she is unflagging in her patience when talking to writers about issues that matter to them. She is also part of a core group of board members who have made it their mission to help writers survive and thrive during this moment when so many are without agents. She raises spirits with her enthusiasm, but she does the hard work of making sure enthusiasm is matched by actual, useful help where it is needed. She was great on the harassment sub-committee, too. Here’s her endorsement link: https://forms.gle/P4FYgLKFZxfTRGQw9
LUVH RAHKE – My co-chair on CAP and a consistent and clear-eyed advocate for inclusion and equity, Luvh is a board member who is an asset in every way. He is a long-standing and dedicated member of the PAC and a nimble, strategic thinker. This quality has carried over into the agency campaign, where he was one of the principals behind the development of the staffing board online. This resource is one that we hope will serve writers even after more agents are back at work for us. It has not only proved a boon to show runners looking for writers, but also it has introduced writers who might not necessarily have been pushed by agents or who were unrepresented before the ATA contract expired. I can honestly say that Luvh has changed writers’ lives for the better. Help me bring him back to the board for the next term by endorsing him here:
MEREDITH STIEHM is one of the bravest, toughest people I know. Meredith was one of the first people to make it clear that agency conflicts of interest had to be a priority for any guild board that cares about its members. She not only has seen this problem personally as a show runner/creator, but also she understands the impact of conflicts on staff writers as well. Her courage in joining the guild law suit against the big four agencies is inspiring. Meredith is a tireless advocate for the rights of women and other underrepresented writers. She was a prime mover behind our campaign to achieve and maintain gender parity on the board. In addition, Meredith was a key member of the MBA negotiating group working on parental leave. I support her and hope you will, too. http://www.meredithforwga.com/endorse
NICOLE YORKIN is one of the most respected and trusted showrunners in our business. She has dedicated herself to working for other writers as well as with them. As I mentioned in another section of this statement, she is initiating a guild program to train anyone at producer level or above in managing other writers. She was also the leader of a group of us who argued for the improved parental leave provision in the last MBA and would not let it be bargained away. Her advocacy on behalf of writers who are also mothers continues unabated, whether we are in negotiations or not. Nicole is a member of the AMBA negotiating committee and speaks constantly and thoughtfully with writers who have questions and doubts or just need moral support. Her contributions are selfless, passionate and unfailingly intelligent. Please vote for her. Endorse Nicole here: https://yorkin4wga.wufoo.com/forms/mm9z1c09mkzx9/
For the fourth time, I am coming to you to ask for your support as a candidate for a position on our guild’s board. But this time, I’m running for vice president. And I’m running unopposed, so if I’m asking for your vote, it’s because I’d appreciate it as an endorsement. But I don’t expect to get that without making my positions clear.
I’ve been a board member now for the past five years. In the last election, however, along with my other areas of interest, I emphasized the importance of upcoming Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) contract negotiations between our union and the AMPTP. I think all of us are pleased with the fact that our unity and determination this time led to advances not only on the DGA agreement, but also in areas our contract hadn’t addressed before. I won’t go over all of these negotiated points here – there are many places where we can access contract terms. What I want to stress is that this year, our guild demonstrated a strength, mutual concern and deep, thoughtful involvement without which nothing would have been achieved.
Forty-two per cent of WGAW membership is new to the guild since the 2007 strike. That meant that discussion of a 2017 strike authorization, our source of hard power, had to include making clear what had been gained last time. It has always been to the companies’ advantage to suggest that the depredations of the 2008 global financial crash were somehow attributable to a work action by the WGA, but any honest discussion of what happened then and where the industry stands now makes a mockery of that idea. I don’t need to rehearse the arguments we all know well by now and, equally important, I would never minimize the actual pain to writers and everyone else impacted by any industry strike. But when our research over the period before this negotiation made it clear that the viability of a career as a professional, dramatic writer was at risk, we, the membership, stood together, believed in ourselves and our power and helped negotiators bring home real improvements to the contract.
One major gain was security for our health and pension plans. Surely, watching with horror the attempt to destroy affordable health care for people who don’t have the advantage of membership in an effective union, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. We did have to make cuts, but this was a negotiation and, as always, a good compromise means everybody has something to complain about. The changes to our plan, however, are neither Draconian nor are they “class based.” I do not believe – our board and committee and staff do not believe – that only the most successful among us deserve top-flight health care. We would not have tolerated a tiered plan, leaving those least able to afford it with lesser benefits, and the companies knew it – thanks to you and the 96.3% vote for a strike authorization you gave us.
In every other area as well, our extraordinary member solidarity made progress possible where it would otherwise have been in doubt or even hopeless. The membership trusted us and we did everything we could to deserve that trust.
Now, united and engaged, we move into the next phase. One thing that we heard frequently during negotiations was that members were surprised by their seriousness. Though I think we did all end up well informed, we must maintain the level of engagement that ultimately pulled the guild together. For that reason, we’d like to start the next board term by reaching out to all of you on topics that have come to the board’s attention with increasing frequency. Here are a few examples:
We made little progress on contractual improvements for screenwriters. We proposed a minimum, two-step deal for screen and kept it on the table until the last minute, but we simply could not get them to move. We need to know how better to approach our screen members’ problems in the next negotiation.
We also have to address the fact that some guild covered, “low budget” productions in digital, particularly, have breaks so high that writers are not even making a living wage.
We must continue to press the issue of script payment parity across platforms. A script is a script. Minimums should not be different when the same-length, same-or-higher-budget script is to be made for network, cable or streaming services.
Though we did make a stride forward in parental leave, guaranteeing that jobs are secure when members need time away, we must continue to seek payment for people who take time off to deal with the needs of their families.
There are new topics to discuss over the next couple of years as well, some of which are or should be addressed in the MBA, some of which may require other approaches. We will be seeking your input over the next few months so that we can continue to improve the conditions of guild writers.
Because I ran for the board in 2016, I hope you will look at my statement from the last election, which should also be on my BlogSpot site along with this one. Most of what I say, certainly my position on such matters as diversity and enforcement, still applies. Some of what I wanted to see happen with H and P has been accomplished in the new contract. We have made progress on options and exclusivity and some improvements in other financial areas. There is always more to be done.
The biggest difference since last year, however, is that the mission of our Political Action Committee is more important than ever. The work we did to help ensure a favorable FCC ruling on net neutrality is in danger of being fully undone. Electing political candidates who will support our agenda is more important than ever.
Thanks for your confidence and support. I look forward to being your board Vice President. I promise to work for you, listen to you and keep you informed.
A NOTE ON THIS ELECTION:
I’m not doing a non-candidate ad for myself. This statement and my 2016 statement appear at: https://supportmarjorie.blogspot.com/
We have an excellent group of board nominees to choose from. I’d be happy to work with any and all of them, but this statement has to be submitted before I’ve made all of my own choices. I will send email recommendations to people on my list before voting starts, and if you’re interested in what I’d suggest and haven’t heard, just drop me a line at email@example.com.
For now, I draw your attention to and ask you to vote for the candidates who participated in negotiations. Their deep knowledge of the issues that matter most to all of us make them indispensible, even in this field of excellent choices. They are incumbents Meredith Stiehm, Luvh Rakhe and Zak Penn -- as well as new candidates Nicole Yorkin and Patti Carr.
Meredith, Nicole and Patti were among those most dedicated to making sure parental leave, a topic that came up through the membership in surveys and meetings, was not taken off the table as compromises were inevitably made. If it weren’t for them, it wouldn’t have happened.
I am proud to have been part of that committee, and there is not one guild or staff member whose dedication, seriousness or hard work I would fail to recommend.
2016 Board Candidate Statement
A CONTRACT NEGOTIATION YEAR: Overseeing the negotiation of a favorable MBA contract is, to me, the most critical, shared responsibility of the WGA board. The continued dedication and strength of our union has kept us, even in a time of diminished labor power, central players in ensuring the fair treatment of our members. There are few areas of importance to working writers left untouched by the MBA – pension and health plan viability, residuals in both old and new media, preventing abusive labor practices, payment on time at rates that improve rather than fall – the bread and butter issues that concern our members every day. Much of our time on the board is devoted to understanding where we stand and where we can move forward on these matters. This is a process of education that takes time and thoughtful attention. I feel I have grown more capable every year of critically analyzing areas crucial to negotiating a solid contract. I promise to be an honest broker on your behalf, and to use my knowledge to continue advocating for writers with strength and determination. Since negotiations fall so close to this board election, I’d like to emphasize that our board has welcomed and will welcome several great, new members, but it is also important to return the four incumbents running this year. The combination of new blood and institutional memory on the board will be an advantage for all of us.
POLITICAL ADVOCACY: Our indefatigable staff and dedicated members have made us a force in Washington, DC through the WGA PAC. I treasure the opportunities the PAC has given me to meet and discuss our issues with national and state leaders. Do I wish getting writer-specific issues addressed weren’t so dependent on handing over a check? You bet I do. But until we can find a way to get money out of politics, we need to do everything we can to be heard where and when it counts. Our guild was a major player in preserving net neutrality because we could speak directly to legislators and FCC regulators. Our arguments were solid and grounded thanks to our meticulous researchers and analysts. We continue fighting to limit media consolidation, to open the market for set top boxes unmediated by the big companies and to promote access to well-paid work with good benefits for you, the key content creators in all media. We support political candidates who support us. I am proud of the work we’ve done through the PAC and will continue to be part of it in the future.
ENFORCEMENT: Late pay makes me really angry. One of the best things about being a board member is the fact that I can help when I hear from members who need the contract enforced. I remember what it was like to be a young, working mother who depended on residuals to make my rent. And you know what? Even if you are doing well, you are entitled to be paid for your work promptly: no fuss, no excuses. So I stay on top of that. I can’t even pretend to be the one who does the hard work of getting non-compliant companies to pay up – our terrific staff knows the law and how to make it work in our favor. I am your advocate. I am always available to hear you and help you.
CAP and DIVERSITY: The past few years have seen a redoubled effort on the part of our guild to promote increased diversity in the industry. There are frustrating moments when we are brought up short by the fact that we aren’t employers ourselves. So we on the board constantly look for ways to put pressure on people who do the hiring. Sticks, however, are not always as usefully wielded as carrots, and the member committees under the CAP (Committee Advisory Panel) umbrella have been doing a bang-up job of expanding opportunities for members to meet show runners, executives, managers and agents. As a board member, it has been my responsibility this year to co-chair the oversight committee that approves and finances the programs of the black, Latino, LGBT, disabled and Asian WGA writers’ committees, as well as the women’s committee, the career longevity committee, events committee and the education committee (the genre committee is just coming back to life). It’s a great way to get to know writers, to understand their needs and frustrations and to help them learn about the business while they build both social and employment networks. Members design, organize and publicize their own events -- their energy is a wonder to behold. Too many writers from diverse groups fall by the wayside in our business. CAP activities are a positive step toward keeping our diverse members in the work force. And, I can’t resist saying, they’re fun.
In addition, it has been my pleasure to meet with new members at guild orientation sessions. My heart sings when I look at the sea of faces – we’re starting to really look like what America looks like.
HEALTH AND PENSION: hand in hand with the MBA negotiation, always, goes our crucial health and pension program. We know for a fact that increasing P&H contributions on the part of the companies would not disturb their corporate bottom line at all. But every year, the first AMPTP offer is a litany of rollbacks and restrictions that threaten our health and our retirement. This isn’t an accident. Nothing frightens our members, for good reason, more than losing health benefits. And the more we have to fight to keep our benefits at status quo, the less time and energy the companies believe we can devote to improving other areas of the contract. I want you to know that we are aware of this tactic and pledge to address other matters the membership tell us are important in addition to P&H.
We have learned on the board, however, that our health costs have gone up tremendously because of the exponential rise in the cost of health care overall as well as new requirements under the ACA. I do not want to exclude any members from our first class health care program. I will resist with all of my heart any suggestion that we follow the path of the DGA and create a tiered system under which members who earn more get better benefits. Fighting for all of our members is a fight worth waging.
IN CLOSING: I am, for the third time, asking for your vote as I run for the WGA Board of Directors. I am running to stay on the board because I love writers and I want to see that they – you – are treated fairly and with respect. Every committee I join and every issue I address is directed toward this goal. I would be honored to be your representative for another term.
BACKGROUND: MEMBER SINCE 1983.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS: 2012-16.
COMMITTEES: BOARD NOMINATING 2007, 2009, 2010; COMMITTEE ADVISORY PANEL (CO-CHAIR) 2015-16; CONTRACT/STRIKE CAPTAIN
2007-08; MBA NEGOTIATING 2014; MEMBERSHIP AND FINANCE 2011-12; NEW MEMBERS 2015-16; OFFICER NOMINATING 2011, 2013 (CO-CHAIR 2013), 2015 (CO-CHAIR 2015); PAC BOARD 2011-16; SHOW CAPTAIN 2007-10, 2014-15, 2016; WRITER ACCESS PROJECT 2009-11; 2013-16.