Writers Guild East Members Vote in Favor of Plan to Address Digital Media Debate
Writers Guild of America East members have voted in favor of changes to the union’s constitution that were aimed at addressing internal controversy over its aggressive digital media organizing efforts.
98 percent of voting members approved the constitutional changes, while two percent voted against. An overall 1,607 votes were cast, amounting to a turnout of 24 percent. Members voted between May 23 and June 9 on the resolution, which proposed instituting new vice president positions in three work sectors — film, TV and streaming, broadcast, cable and streaming news and online media. The resolution also proposed ensuring the governing council proportionately represents the work sectors that its union members belong to based on the union’s most recent census results, and only allowing members to be able to vote on leaders within their own work sector.
“I’m proud of the union and the way in which our officers and council representatives have worked together, facing what often seemed to be intractable issues, yet reaching consensus,” Writers Guild East president Michael Winship said in a statement. “We now stand united and determined just as we confront the big fights ahead, from next year’s MBA negotiations with the studios and networks to building and enforcing strong contracts for our new shops.”
The Guild, which created the #NextChapter hashtag to publicize the proposed changes, says that council members arrived at this solution following “months of meetings” with a third-party facilitator and a labor lawyer and after nearly one-third of the union’s membership participated in a survey about the union’s direction.
In April, in an effort to more equally organize across all of the union’s represented disciplines, the council also passed an organizing resolution that forms a committee of council members in different work sectors that will collaborate with union staff on organizing projects.
The #NextChapter referendum as well as the organizing resolution followed a debate within the Guild about its expansion into the digital media sector over the last few years. The conflict came to a head during an election of the union’s council in the summer of 2021: Ultimately, a slate of candidates advocating for continued organizing within the digital media sector won out, with all candidates on that ticket gaining seats. June’s referendum vote was seen as a means of addressing the debate between members who were concerned about the resources that digital media organizing was taking up and members who were adamant that organizing in the space should continue.
The Guild says that members will be asked for nominations for upcoming council elections in July. The constitutional changes regarding council members will start taking into effect then, opening up seats for a new vice president of broadcast, cable and streaming and a vice president for news and online media, six TV, film and streaming council members, three broadcast, cable and streaming news council members and two online media council members.