COVID-19 and the WGAE

This page will be updated regularly with news and resources for WGAE members.

Last updated: 6/29/2020 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Table of Contents


Guild News & Updates

The Guild has been working tirelessly to address the very real concerns members have about the effect COVID-19 is having on their workplaces.

Our Business Agents and Field Representatives have been in close contact with employers and with shop stewards and captains at our TV writers rooms and our broadcast and digital newsrooms. The situation is complex and unsettling, to say the least. Employers’ responses range from mandated work-at-home to business-as-usual. For its part, the Guild stands ready to advise and represent writers who have questions about workplace safety, or about contractual or employment rights in these extraordinary circumstances. Guild lawyers, business representatives and other staff are available to help provide advice and advocacy for you, if necessary.  If you have any concerns about your own workplace situation, please contact your WGAE representative (see contact information below).

We urge you to do everything in your power to minimize the risk of infection to the people you work with by strongly considering options like working at home, conducting meetings by Skype or Zoom or Bluejeans or conference call. We know this might be difficult for a host of reasons but please consider it.

Please note that WGAE staffers are working at home as much as possible, although some work requires staff to come into the office or to attend meetings outside the office. We are rescheduling as many meetings from in-person to phone – or online-only – including meetings with members, but some things must be done face to face.

The union’s operations will remain as efficient and effective as possible, but if it takes someone a bit longer to get back to you or complete a task, please understand we are trying to balance our vital union work with serious public health concerns.

Finally, we have been communicating with our sister unions to learn as much as possible about workplace conditions and the appropriate responses.

Thank you and stay safe. 

WGAE Representatives

Broadcast news:

Digital news:

TV/SVOD/Features:

Nonfiction:

Upcoming Guild Events

All in-person WGAE events are postponed through early April. Please check the WGAEast.org’s events calendar for upcoming events that will be hosted by videoconference. We will provide updates on the Guild’s upcoming events schedule in a timely manner.

COVID-19-related support through California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) will also be a topic of the March 18th webinar, WGA CA Paid Family Leave: Benefits for New Parents and People Caring for Ill Family Members, presented in partnership with the Actors Fund. RSVP here to join. 

Script Registration

There is no in-person Script Registration at the WGAE offices. However, you are still able (and encouraged) to register your scripts online at scriptregistration.org.

Healthcare Information & Legal Support

PWGA Pension & Health Updates

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is here, and the Health Plan is here to help you. If you or a dependent need to get screened of tested for COVID-19, the Health Plan will cover 100% of your cost-sharing (including deductible and co-insurance) for both in-network and out-of-network tests and screenings. Please note that treatment of COVID-19 illnesses will be covered under Plan Rules as usual with cost-sharing in effect. For more details about this waiver, click HERE.

Telemedicine: Guild members may video chat with a doctor online with LiveHealth Online, a service of Anthem Blue Cross. Both physical and mental health resources are available. You just need a phone, tablet or computer equipped with video and an Internet connection. Learn more HERE. 

UPDATE: Due to the fear of transmitting COVID-19, many therapists and doctors are insisting that they meet with their patients via Skype or other electronic means. Doing so may reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, both to patient and doctor, but until today, the Health Plan did not reimburse online visits unless the visit was in-network and conducted through LiveHealth Online. This morning, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to temporarily allow for reimbursement of doctor, therapist, and other licensed provider visits (both in-network and out-of-network) when the visit occurs electronically via Skype or other similar method, and at the same rate as an in-person visit, subject to normal Plan rules. Participants will be notified when the temporary program ends. LiveHealth Online and LiveHealth Online Psychology continue to be allowed as before. For important details about this benefits change, click HERE.

COBRA

If your health insurance has expired, you can keep it active by opting into COBRA, which is a federal law that allows you to keep the group insurance you had through a job, a spouse’s job or a parent for up to 18 months (sometimes longer). In New York State, for example, you can keep COBRA coverage for up to 36 months. The cost can be high, but it is often less expensive than buying insurance on your own. You have 60 days from the date of your notification letter to elect COBRA coverage.

CARES Act

The Guild’s CARES Act guide includes a summary of the different types of benefits, answers to frequently asked questions, links to relevant state agencies, and information on howto apply for those benefits for which you are eligible.

Read the CARES Act Guide

Here are some additional resources which may help you navigate the CARES Act:

Unemployment Benefits

New York State is waiving the 7-Day waiting period for Unemployment Insurance benefits for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. For more information, click HERE. The NY Department of Labor also recently released a revamped system for filing unemployment claims online. To access the new system, click here.

If you are a broadcast news WGAE member who has been working as a temporary employee and has seen a reduction in hours, you should apply for UI. You can earn partial benefits if your hours were reduced by at least 20%.

With many workplaces facing reduced demand due to COVID-19, the NY Department of Labor has a possible alternative to layoffs and Unemployment Insurance: the Shared Work Program. This program allows workplaces to retain staff on a reduced work schedule while collecting partial Unemployment Insurance benefits to make up the difference. For more information on this program, click here.

Legal Services

Legally, all employers have an obligation to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Guild staff are available to advise and represent writers who have questions about workplace safety, or about contractual or employment rights in these extraordinary circumstances. If necessary, Guild lawyers, business agents and other staff are available to help provide advice and advocacy for you. If you have questions, please contact Ann Burdick at aburdick@wgaeast.org. 

For more information, read these answers to COVID-19 employment and benefit questions.

Paid Family Leave & Disability Insurance

In New York City, workers may be eligible for wage replacement through New York City Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law if they are unable to work because they have been infected with COVID-19, are caregiver to someone who has been infected by COVID-19, or have had their work hours cut or eliminated as a result of COVID-19. Visit the agency’s website for more information.

In California, workers may be eligible for wage replacement through California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) if they are unable to work because they have been infected with COVID-19, are caregiver to someone who has been infected by COVID-19, or have had their work hours cut or eliminated as a result of COVID-19. Visit the agency’s website for more information. 

The Actors Fund

The Actors Fund offers a range of financial, disability, and healthcare services to the broader entertainment industry. Those interested in receiving support from the Actors Fund should note that, for the coming weeks, its Los Angeles, New York and Chicago offices will temporarily transition in-person program offerings to online and phone meetings only.

CLick here to learn more about Actors Fund Emergency Financial Assistance.

See available offerings on The Actors Fund website. 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Though much is still unknown about the virus, there is some understanding of best practices for limiting it’s spread. Visit the CDC website for information on how the virus spreads, symptoms to look out for, what to do in the case of infection, and other frequently asked questions. 

Teleworking Tools

Consistent with public health recommendations, we recommend writers work from home if possible. If you are a supervisor, contact your studio for guidance. The following tools may be useful to writers’ rooms and teams looking to work remotely.

For room discussions & meetings:

For boarding & notes:

For live texting:

Additional Resources

  • United States Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Updates on COVID-19. View here.
  • Economic Policy Institute (EPI): Getting Serious About the Economic Response to COVID-19. View here.
  • A chart listing state law provisions on job protection and leave for workers affected by quarantine. View here.
  • National Endowment for the Arts: COVID-19 Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations. View here.
Back to top