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WGAE Letter to Membership Recaps 2009
Dear Writers Guild of America East Member:
Happy New Year. As 2009 comes to a close, we wanted to give you a brief review of some of the union’s activities on your behalf this year and to look ahead to plans and challenges that face us in the coming months.
Two years ago, we were still in the middle of our strike against the multimedia, international conglomerates that control so much of the entertainment and news industry in America. At the heart of that groundbreaking dispute was establishing a foothold in new media. The strike and resulting contract made significant steps toward recognition and payment for the use of our work in digital media but we still have a long way to go.
To further that end, the Guild East has signed nearly two-dozen companies that produce content for the Internet (and, in one case, apps for the iPhone). In addition, we have organized or co-sponsored seminars and panel discussions and have made our voice heard on such relevant digital issues as net neutrality to the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission.
Our work in digital media is part of an ever-increasing and broader organizing effort. In fact, since the strike ended in February 2008, organizing has become our largest department, actively engaged not only in digital media but also in non-fiction television, animation, independent film and other areas, as well as our ongoing organizing work in news, feature film and commercial television and radio.
Bargaining for a new contract with public television continues but we are closer to agreement, in large part because of the active, sustained participation in negotiations by members who have dedicated an enormous amount of time to the talks. We’re grateful.
Part of our progress in that negotiation can be attributed to our ongoing political work in Washington, with a schedule of visits to members of Congress and at the White House in support of increased funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and to express our views on other matters important to us. Most successful was a day of events in May that included lobbying on Capitol Hill and at the White House by writers of public television and late night comedy, culminating in an evening of stand-up and a panel discussion on late night comedy and politics that was carried nationwide by C-SPAN.
Lobbying also continues in Albany, where we have been campaigning on behalf of legislation to extend the state’s production tax credit to include writers, and in partnership with brother and sister unions as we maintain a close relationship with the members of the AFL-CIO on a local, state and national level. With our colleagues at Writers Guild West we continue to be active in the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds, this year’s annual meeting culminating in the first World Screenwriters Conference in Athens, Greece, which was a great success.
Financially, despite the hit that everyone has taken from the recession, our dues revenue is stable and we have recovered a significant amount of what was lost in investments when the markets went into meltdown. Because of this, we have been able to expand union activities without creating a deficit, which is very good news.
In the year ahead negotiations will soon begin with CBS News and ABC News for new contracts. We are engaged with our members in those shops and are mobilizing for their fullest participation in the bargaining process. At the same time, we have begun planning for the next MBA negotiation, which will begin in 2011.
Also ahead: a new website, digital media training for members and an exciting new move for the Guild that we’ll be sharing with you as final details are worked out. You’ll be hearing more about it very soon.
In the meantime, we are looking forward to what we think will be an important year for all of us. As ever, we urge you to get involved with the Guild through its committees or other activities. And do not hesitate to contact us with your questions, ideas and suggestions for making the Guild East a better and stronger union for you.
In solidarity and with best regards,
Lowell PetersonExecutive Director