WGAE President Michael Winship’s Letter To Membership

Dear Fellow Members of the Writers Guild, East:

For a bunch of people who are on strike, withholding our services and creativity from the giant media conglomerates, we stay remarkably busy.

Picket lines, rallies, meetings, contributing to blogs and websites with essays and viral videos — all of your hard work and participation are deeply appreciated and all of it has an impact.

Keeping our positions in the public eye, telling our story in ways both serious and comic, maintaining our visibility as a united and solid, practical and purposeful group of women and men with reasonable goals pays off. It has been a long haul but I remain confident that our perseverance will prevail.

Today, the Guilds signed a comprehensive interim agreement with Media Rights Capital (MRC), the independent film, television and digital media studio currently working with such creative talents as Larry David, Ricky Gervais, Seth MacFarlane and Gordon Ramsey. Although not yet a household name, MRC has more motion pictures and TV shows in production than all the other entities with whom we've made agreements so far combined. Most important, they have over a dozen original made-for-the-Internet properties with many more to come. The deal represents a paradigm shift to original content for new media, produced and distributed under a Writers Guild contract without the involvement of a major studio or network.

On Friday afternoon, the Guilds also signed an agreement with The Weinstein Company, one of the most important and successful independent film studios in the business. The deal is virtually identical to the previously announced agreements with United Artists and Worldwide Pants and, like those, includes all the new media and other proposals which would have been formally presented to the studios and networks had they not walked away from the table on December 7.

More of these agreements are in the works and we will announce them to you as they occur. Each demonstrates our willingness to bargain fairly and reasonably and shows that the companies with whom we’re making these deals realize that what we’re asking for is equitable and realistic. What’s more, each deal helps divide the conglomerates and creates competitive pressure.

In other good news, last week we reached a tentative agreement with CBS News on a new contract for Guild members who have been working there under an expired contract since April 1, 2005.

The agreement must still be ratified by membership vote. It covers approximately 500 newswriters, editors, desk assistants, production assistants, graphic artists, promotion writers, and researchers working in television and radio at the national and local level in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

Like you, our CBS News members have shown enormous solidarity and tenacity during a difficult process, and I congratulate them, the negotiating committee, our staff and our professional negotiators, especially Guild East Executive Director Mona Mangan and Assistant Executive Director Ann Toback.

Finally, as I’m sure you’ve heard on the news, on Saturday, the Directors Guild began formal negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. In a joint press release with the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guilds, East and West, wished the DGA well and offered our hope that they achieve a fair deal that incorporates principles that benefit all creative artists. We further stated that, while the DGA has to do what it believes is best for its membership, it is important to remember that they do not represent writers and actors. If the DGA is able to reach an agreement with the AMPTP, we will carefully analyze the terms to see whether or not they advance our interests. SAG will do the same.

One last thing: picketing. We need you to join your friends and colleagues on the picket line as often as possible, especially as we are expanding our reach and making our presence known at various locations on a more regular basis.

Here are our picket locations and times for Monday through Thursday, January 14th – 17th (thanks to Gina Gionfriddo and the organizing staff for compiling this so handily). Please contact the picket captains listed below to determine the best time and location for your participation:

All My Children/ The View: 8:30 am-10:30 am (West 66th Street, West of West End Avenue)

CAPTAIN: Judy Tate (judy@judytate.com)

Late Night: 3-5 pm (Rockefeller Center: West 49th St to the West of the NBC Store)

CAPTAIN: Mark St. Germain (dankaprodu@aol.com)

The Daily Show: 4-6 pm (11th Ave and 51st St)

CAPTAIN: Julian Sheppard (julianx@hotmail.com)

The Colbert Report: 4-6 pm (513 West 54th St between 10th and 11th)

CAPTAIN: David Steven Cohen (davidstevenco@aol.com)

In addition, we are also holding a large picket on Wednesday, January 16, in front of One Life to Live (located on 56 West 66th St, between Columbus and CPW) from 11 am – 2 pm. Come one, come all.

After the picket on Wednesday, at 3 pm, we will be going to the United Federation of Teachers at 52 Broadway (opposite the NY Stock Exchange) to deliver 200,000 pencils which television fans have purchased in honor of the WGA strike to let the AMPTP know they're behind us. The pencils will be donated to New York City public schools.

As all of us know so well, behind every great writer, there’s a great teacher.

Thanks for everything. Keep fighting. Onward.

In solidarity,

Michael Winship


Writers Guild of America, East