Writers Guild Members Working Near Contract Minimum Wage, Despite Record Employment Growth

Dave McNary

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The Writers Guild of America revealed Tuesday that although employment numbers are rising for members, compensation is dramatically behind.

“While record numbers of members are currently employed, individual writer compensation is not where it should be, with too many members working at or close to minimum,” the WGA West told its members from president David A. Goodman, VP Marjorie David and secretary-treasurer Michelle Mulroney. The updates come ahead of Minimum Basic Agreement contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The current three-year deal expires May 1, though no talks have been set.

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“Our MBA focus must be to ensure that writers are being fairly compensated for the global value of the content that has continued to bring banner profits to our employers, and that our benefit plans remain healthy,” the message reads.

The guild’s eight-month standoff with the major Hollywood talent agencies has heightened worries that the WGA will go on strike after the contract expires. The WGA required on April 13 that members fire their agents if the agents had not signed a Code of Conduct, which bans agents from taking packaging fees and prohibits agencies from owning production affiliates.

In a promising sign, the letter added that WGA West members employment are reaching peak levels similar to 20 years ago, reporting that 1,000 screenwriters collected over $100 million in earnings each quarter.

“This level of employment and earnings has been sustained for two years now, a change from the period in 2012-14 when quarterly employment in features was typically around 700 writers,” the message continues. “Television employment remains at its highest level in history: there have been more than 4,500 members working in TV for the last five years and counting, now approaching 5,000, with more than 350 scripted series in production for each of the last three seasons.”

The WGA is required to seek approval of its “pattern of demands” before meeting with the companies. WGA West executive director David Young, who orchestrated the bitter 2007-08 strike, will serve as chief negotiator. Mulroney, Shawn Ryan and Betsy Thomas are the co-chairs.

Tuesday’s message to members concluded that the negotiating committee will meet Tuesday night and review members’ responses to its recent survey. The message added, “In January, the membership will have the opportunity to vote on a Pattern of Demands, and following that, member meetings will be convened for the Committee to lay out initial proposals and get feedback.”

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