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2017 COUNCIL ELECTION
Below are the Candidate Statements for the 2017 Writers Guild of America, East Council Election. Click on the name of the candidate to go directly to his/her statement or click on the first name and scroll down to read them all.
The Council is the governing body of the WGAE, consisting of 19 members, plus the three officers (President, Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer). Freelance members work in screen, television and digital media, and Staff members work in television, digital and radio news shops under the Guild’s jurisdiction.
The candidates for officer positions are:
The ten (10) candidates for the six (6) open Freelance seats are (order determined by lot*):
- Amy Sohn
- David Handelman
- Stu Zicherman
- Tracey Scott Wilson
- Susan Kim
- Bill Scheft
- Bonnie Datt
- David Simon
- Courtney Simon
- Andrea Ciannavei
The six (6) candidates for the three (3) open Staff seats are (order determined by lot*):
Candidates for Officer Positions
I have had the privilege of serving on the WGAE Council for the past three years. I’m grateful to the Membership for electing me twice and honored to have worked with my fellow Council members to move our union forward on important issues like diversity, opportunity, communication, and negotiating our MBA.
I am honored to have been nominated to run for President of the WGAE. While I am running unopposed, it is important that I share with you what I have done on Council, why I’m qualified to lead, what I see as our path forward, and to ask for your vote of confidence.
Since joining the Council, I have focused on the following:
NYS DIVERSITY TAX CREDIT LEGISLATION:
For several years, the WGAE has been working to incentivize the hiring of writers in NY State – specifically female writers and writers of color – in an effort to diversify our industry and bring more writing jobs East. To that end, I have:
- Worked closely with Guild leadership and staff on government lobbying and free media strategy.
- Met with industry leaders to advocate for the legislation.
- Met with legislators and their staffs in Albany to push for support of the bill.
- Conducted outreach to Guild members to inform and encourage participation in our efforts.
I am happy to say that after years of hard work, we have finally passed this tax credit through both the New York State Assembly and Senate. We still need to get the Governor to sign the legislation and allocate funds within the budget. That will be one of my primary focuses as your President.
MADE IN NEW YORK WRITERS ROOM:
When I first joined Council, I gathered showrunners to talk about ways we can mentor new and mid-career writers to provide more opportunity within the industry, particularly women and people of color. Since then, I have worked with the WGAE staff on securing funds from New York City to enact a formal program to this end. We succeeded in partnering with the City government to create the Made in New York Writers Room. The City has devoted over $700,000 to fund the program. We received over 500 applications in our first year, and twelve finalists are currently working with accomplished showrunner mentors. I have assisted by:
- Participating in discussions with city officials to hammer out a plan.
- Working directly with WGAE to refine that plan, so it’s within the WGAE’s best interests and retains focus on diversity.
- Recruiting showrunners to serve as mentors.
- Participating in media outreach and press to bring attention to the program.
As you are well aware, both the WGAE and WGAW entered formal negotiations with the AMPTP several months ago to address our tri-annual Minimum Basic Agreement. We chose to take a firm stance in order to protect our healthcare and pension funds, increase pay for writers, address options and exclusivity, combat the negative downsides of short seasons, and, for the first time ever, safeguard parental leave. We accomplished this by listening to the concerns of membership, fighting for what you cared about, and stressing the importance of solidarity, so that a strike authorization would give us the leverage we needed to make the best deal for us all. We got what we fought for and avoided a strike in the process. I was directly involved by:
- Serving on the WGAE/WGAW joint Negotiating Committee.
- Participating in outreach and forums with members.
- Being vocal about your concerns during National Joint Council meetings and preparatory negotiating committee meetings.
- Participating in strike authorization vote meetings.
- Being present for formal negotiations and participating in negotiating committee caucus discussions during the process.
THE BLACK LIST:
The Black List (the most comprehensive extant database of unproduced scripts and writer information) has recently created a tool which allows writers to create personal profiles. This tool gives participating writers enhanced visibility in the industry and helps to combat the problem of diversity by bringing increased attention to the work of underserved writers. I have worked with WGAE staff and The Black List to:
- Make certain that this tool is available for FREE to all WGAE members.
- Assist with feedback on the beta version of the tool, so it’s best suited to what writers need.
- Encourage WGAE members to sign up for the tool in order to increase its impact on the industry.
So far, hundreds of WGAE members have already signed up. I want to continue working to increase the number of WGAE participants and further improve the tool.
THE PATH FORWARD:
THE MBA: Just because we arrived at a good deal with the AMPTP, we can’t rest on any laurels. The process begins now for determining what we will fight for three years from now and what we can do to fight for these things in the interim. While our deal was good, there is always room for improvement, and I am committed to making sure we keep progressing rather than stagnating or slipping backward. To that end, we will be communicating frequently with the membership for your input and beginning to strategize a multi-year approach in preparation for the next MBA negotiations.
DIVERSITY: While we’ve made some progress on improving diversity and opportunity in our industry, there is still a long way to go. Programs like the Made in New York Writers Room are a start, and making sure we get the Governor to approve the Diversity Tax Credit is important. We also need to keep educating studios, producers, and showrunners on better hiring practices, offering training and guidance to writers who have been shut out, and always looking for new ways to confront this systemic problem. It requires multiple solutions on many fronts, and we should leave no stone unturned.
YOUR VOICE: The MBA negotiations brought our Guild together in a way that we haven’t seen in years – a vocal, energized, and engaged membership. We were talking to each other, working with each other, strengthening our solidarity. We need to keep building on that. Which means continuing to improve the ways you can access your Council and creating forums for all of you to meet and speak with each other, as well as your representatives. Recently we formed a Forum Committee to dedicate itself to increasing access and dialogue. We held our first open forum in January, which nearly 100 members attended. We will continue to hold events like these and improve communication electronically, so that our solidarity will keep growing. We can best represent you, the more we hear from you and the more we all speak to each other.
POLITICS: We are living in a tumultuous political climate with much uncertainty. National and local policy affects us as writers – whether its Net Neutrality or Healthcare or social and economic policy that impacts the society we write about and write for. For many years, the WGAE has mostly stayed out of politics except when it comes to issues that specifically impact the Guild. But we are part of a larger world. Our voices and political weight as a union impact that world just as the world impacts us. I have advocated for the WGAE to take a more active role in politics, so that we can use our power as a union to better empower ourselves and others. Some members have strong feelings as to how political we should be. I welcome that dialogue and would like to hear from you in terms of what you believe our role should be.
VISIBILITY: As a showrunner and Council member, I have participated in numerous forums, panels, festivals, and press conferences – many of which I helped organize – in order to discuss and amplify issues important to the membership. I believe it’s important for the WGAE to have a strong public presence. It increases our power as a union and raises awareness about our efforts. We want to be a leader in our industry and lead by example. As your President, I will serve as your ambassador and make sure our work and concerns remain highly visible both within our industry and beyond.
I’M ASKING FOR YOUR VOTE…
…Because serving my peers has been a great honor, and I want to continue to build on our accomplishments. There’s still much work to do. As your President, I will make sure that work gets done. I will be a leader who is always available to you, who listens, and who measures success in concrete results.
I’m proud to be a writer. I’m proud to be in a union with fellow writers. I want to continue to fight for all of us, so that we can all take pride in the work we do together – as writers and as a Guild.
Thank you for taking the time to read my candidate statement. Please vote for me. I look forward to serving you.
My role as Vice President of the WGAE has been largely to support and expand the great work that Michael Winship has done as President. It’s been an honor, really, to have been able to do so. Now Michael is stepping down, and, given that he’s running unopposed, it’s reasonable to say that Beau Willimon will be taking over. I had considered stepping down with Michael, but, after discussing it with several people, I decided that it would be helpful to the new President if I were to stay on for at least one more term to smooth the transition. I look forward to working with Beau, who has already shown himself to be an outstanding Council member.
As before, my primary personal focus in the next two years will be on organizing and supporting our amazingly talented and dedicated organizing department. The last two years have resulted in an explosion of new members in digital news, swelling and invigorating our membership and revolutionizing that relatively new industry. Also, we continue the tough battle to gain leverage in “reality” television. The lack of union representation in that rogue industry not only causes terrible conditions for writers working there, but erodes the strength, bargaining power, and dignity of all writers. I also plan to continue to support our drive for diversity in both the Guild and the industry and to encourage the growth of our caucuses—building communities of current and hopefully future members in the independent film, animation, and digital content worlds.
The outpouring of support and solidarity that our membership displayed during the recent contract negotiations was truly inspiring. It made me proud to be an officer of this union. I will be proud to continue in that capacity for another term. Thanks.
As the autumn leaves of red and gold begin to fall by our windows there will be a new Jefe in town. The smooth transition of power is certain; Beau Willimon, whose extraordinary success has not diminished his desire to serve, is running unopposed. And since I am too (thank you for that), my statement is simple–the Guild is killing it. The future of news is in ones and zeros, and our organizing department is on it. The folks at Vice, Huffington Post, and a bunch of other digital shops are already working under Guild contracts, with more soon to come. On the freelance side our numbers are swelling as well, and will only grow larger if the Guv deigns to sign the bill we’ve been promoting tirelessly for several years providing a tax credit to employers who hire women and people of color to write and direct television in the state, which has finally been approved by both senate and assembly. There are two people primarily responsible for the Guild’s recent successes. Lowell Peterson and Michael Winship. When Lowell became the Guild’s Executive Director, it was a mess. We were running on fumes financially and had a staff that was painfully demoralized. Now the Guild is on solid ground financially–Lowell’s been salting away money in the bank almost every quarter, and running a surplus nearly every year, and staff morale has never been higher. Michael, the outgoing Jefe, took the reins just as we were heading into a strike. He has been a remarkably steady, able hand on the wheel, strong and unyielding. Under his leadership we’ve the best of both worlds. We are an autonomous union that serves the needs of New York-centric writers who have, for whatever reason, chosen not to live in a company town, that works and plays well with its counterpart out west. Relations between East and West have never been warmer or more collegial. He’ll be missed.
Candidates for Freelance Seats
You may know me from my novels Prospect Park West and Motherland, but I have been a member of the WGAE since 2004, developing TV and film projects for networks like HBO, ABC, Fox, and Lifetime. In the past 13 years I have witnessed the many challenges confronting our industry. As average TV writer earnings have plummeted, it has become nearly impossible for writers to make living wages, much less support families on those wages. In New York, we face the unique challenge of a small number of writers rooms with a limited job pool for emerging writers. I will endeavor to grow and diversify our membership and get more New York writers working.
Earlier this year, due to the Herculean efforts of the WGAE and DGA, the New York State Senate and Assembly finally passed legislation to provide a tax credit to companies who hire women and people of color for TV writing and directing jobs in the state. But the credit will have to be approved by the governor and appropriated. I will work to get us to the finish line, so we can win jobs for underrepresented groups in New York state.
I support the Diversity Coalition, particularly its collaborations with sister unions, and will push for more diverse union membership, mentorship of underrepresented groups (like the Made in New York program), and panels that address employment challenges for women and people of color.
As a working journalist (New York magazine, The New York Times, The Nation, Elle, and many others) I believe we must continue to reach out to journalists and expand our union’s influence. We have added 500 digital news members since 2013. Two digital media writers have endorsed me; even as a Freelance member I will stand for Staff members. We are one union. We must protect journalists so they can continue to do their crucial work in our oppressive political environment.
In recent years many scripted writers have grown frustrated with their agents for not protecting their quotes. Too many middle-class writers have had to hire managers in addition to agents – leading to commission payments of 20 or 25% instead of 10% (not including lawyer or business manager fees). As a Council member, I will organize working groups on agent-talent relationships so we can get agents and managers to secure us employment at fair prices. We often forget that they work for us, not the other way around.
This year’s MBA contract negotiations achieved much-needed gains in the areas of short seasons, pay TV residuals, and Health Fund contributions. But for the 2020 negotiations we must make additional gains: shorter contracts for pilot scripts so writers can be freed for other work; paid parental leave; and an end to one-step deals for feature film writers. We must be ready to go to the mat in 2020 and show the unity we displayed in our 2017 strike authorization vote.
Guild Activities: WGAE member since 2004. SAG-AFTRA member since 1989. Actors Equity member since 1985. Co-Founder, WGA-Brooklyn. Contract captain 2017.
Endorsed by: Cami Delavigne, Kim Kelly, Susan Kim, Hamilton Nolan, Adam Rapp, James Sanders, Lara Shapiro, and Courtney Simon.
Endorsed by: Brooke Berman, Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen, Peter Blauner, Kyle Bradstreet, Adam Brooks, Jean-Cristophe Castelli, Bonnie Datt, Katherine Dieckmann, Brant Englestein, Billy Finnegan, Tom Fontana, Eric Gilliland, Gina Gionfriddo, Daniel Goldfarb, Fred Graver, Peter Grosz, Peter Hedges, A.M. Homes, Jonathan Kesselman, Warren Leight, Alison McDonald, Doug McGrath, Mark McKinney, Steve O’Donnell, Daniel Radosh, Michael Rauch, Richard Regen, Jackie Reingold, Amy Rice, Charlie Rubin, Stephen Schiff, Lara Shapiro, Julian Sheppard, Sydney Sidner, Courtney Simon, Brian Stack, Gideon Yago, Laura Zaccaro, Elisa Zuritsky
My name is David Handelman. I’ve been a proud member of the WGAE since 1998, thanks to co-writing a freelance episode of the ABC sitcom SportsNight, following a career in print journalism (including Rolling Stone, Vogue, New York Times).
I have written on the staffs of six scripted dramas on networks and cable (including West Wing, One Tree Hill, Nashville, and The Newsroom), as well as written for daytime syndicated talk (The Jane Pauley Show), network morning show (Good Morning America), prime time cable news (CNN’s Parker/Spitzer) and am currently a writer producer for CNN’s Smerconish (which, I should clarify, is not a Guild job).
I would bring to the Council not just this broad knowledge of writer’s issues across many platforms — (print & online journalism, half-hour & hour network & cable scripted, network & cable news, etc). But also – as I tried to illustrate with my above list of endorsers – my longstanding relationships with people in other fields — playwrights, novelists, screenwriters, writers of half-hours, late-night, soaps, & web series, from newbies to showrunners, from indies to studio, Moth storytellers, even not-yet-members who are talented writers who I know from having taught them and their peers TV writing at NYU.
I also have many friends and former colleagues in WGAW and hope to further strengthen the bonds between the two coasts. And I believe I am uniquely in touch with the wide range of issues of the myriad people who the Guild represents. I would like to work toward diversifying who is being hired — and doing the hiring.
I first really felt the power of the union when I served as a Strike Captain in 2007, when, marching on cold winter nights outside the Colbert Report while he put on shows without writers, participating in the big actions that got us the first toehold in our share of the internet money – which the AMPTP claimed, like VHS and DVD before them, was negligible.
I’ve worked on the Activities Committees on both coasts, helping to organize the 2015 Lake Arrowhead Conference (I also wrote the intro to David Milch). And I served as a “Contract Captain” this past spring, helping to convince several skeptics that voting to authorize the strike was actually our only leverage to avoid another strike.
I am very impressed with what the Union pulled off this spring and am reminded on a daily basis how under assault our unions — and health care plans — are in the current environment. And, as the details in Frank Darabont’s recent lawsuit against AMC prove, we still have to combat the ongoing shady accounting and synergistic self-dealing that rips off the creative people who are the sole reason these franchises get off the ground.
I also hear plenty of war stories from screenwriter friends and know their issues were not resolved by the new contract, and need to be addressed, e.g. to drive back the push for multiple drafts for free.
I didn’t previously run for Council because of an issue that I hope to help remedy: there wasn’t enough work in New York to keep me here. I moved to LA a half dozen times to work in writers’ rooms. And on the only show I staffed on that had a New York room – even though NYC knowledge was key to the series — everyone on the staff besides the showrunner and me was shipped in from LA because that’s whom the studio and network approved. The recent lobbying of Albany for tax breaks for NY writers room is only part of the problem; we have to make ourselves better known to the coast as equals to (if not superior to!) West writers.
I learned about getting things done from my parents, who were both civically active on the local level (my father even ended up Mayor of my hometown, and my mother wrote more letters of complaint/activism than Ben Stiller in Greenberg – and got results). One of my brothers is a full-time peace activist in Oregon, and the other is a school superintendent.
If elected I plan to be just as responsive, prompt and persuasive in getting things done for you and the Guild.
I am so honored to be nominated for a Council position at the Writers Guild East.
I love being a writer, and I love being a New York writer. My first job in “the business” was as a P.A. on the movie BIG NIGHT in 1994. I remember standing on set in Coney Island wishing I knew more, wishing I could do more, eager to be a part of an industry that makes dreams come true. More than 20 years later, I have had the incredible opportunity to make a living in film and television while never leaving my hometown. Now I am eager to lend my experience to other New York writers and the Guild that supports us.
The last few years I have had the privilege of working on THE AMERICANS, THE AFFAIR and DIVORCE – shows that both shoot and write in New York. In the last calendar year more than thirty shows shot in New York, but less than 20% actually wrote here. That’s crazy, considering the enormous pool of talent. Therefore, putting more writers rooms in New York City is on the top of my agenda. I talk to friends all the time who are headed to LA to work on shows, leaving their families behind for months at a time. This is an issue that should be addressed in Albany and by the tax credit, but mostly by encouraging more local writers to write pilots. Showrunners put their shows where they live. The more shows New York writers get on the air, the more rooms that will be just a subway ride away.
Since I became a WGAE member twenty years ago, I have worked on big budget features, indie features, network television, cable television, one-hour, half-hour— and feel like I have seen virtually every situation a writer can face. It would be an honor to represent you and help New York continue to grow as a place writers can build sustainable careers.
Endorsed by Joe Weisberg, Joel Fields, Anya Epstein, Raven Metzner, Michael Rauch, Brian Goluboff, Liz Tucillo, Sharr White, Lara Sharpiro, David Shoetz.
Endorsed by Joel Fields, Joe Weisberg, Stephen Schiff, Diana Son, Melissa James Gibson, Lara Shapiro and Bash Doran
I am a co-executive producer on The Americans.
I have been a member of the Guild since 2007 but only recently, during contract negotiations, did I really understand what it means to be member of the union. I saw how powerful we are and how much we can get done when we have a common goal. Even though we often had different needs, we pulled together and fought for everyone to be treated equally. I’m so proud and grateful to work for a union that fights so hard for the rights of all its members.
I want to continue to give back and help makes things better. Specifically, I want to continue to work to increase the number of women and people of color in the industry.
As a member of the Diversity Committee, I helped successfully lobby the New York State Senate and the NY State assembly to finally pass legislation to provide a tax credit to employers that hire woman and people of color to write and direct television in the state. The Governor still has to sign the bill and we have to ensure funding, but it’s a huge step that took eight years to accomplish.
During these divisive times, artists have an essential role to play. When Joe Biden came out in support of gay marriage he said, “Will & Grace probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far.” While entertaining, we can open up the world and allow people to see and understand cultures and lives they might otherwise never be exposed to. We can’t do that unless we have diverse people in the room to create and tell those stories.
Please consider electing me to the Council so I can continue to do my best to make that happen.
My name is Susan Kim and I’m running for my seventh consecutive term as a freelance Council member.
I believe in unions because collective action is the best way to bring about real, lasting change and to improve our lot. Organized labor not only gave us the weekend and fair wages; it continues to give the struggling middle class a fighting chance. This is why I have always focused my energies on organizing: helping writers identify their goals and obstacles and then work with the WGAE to stand up for their rights.
I also do this because I’ve been so frustrated by my own field. Although I joined the WGAE as a live-action writer, I mostly write animation. I make a living, one that I’m proud of – but for reasons involving jurisdiction, the fact that it’s a “non-mandatory subject of bargaining,” and the highly freelance, non-shop based structure of the work itself, it has been a frustrating, endless, and seemingly impossible struggle. Animation is one of the most lucrative forms of entertainment worldwide: that it is still uncovered is one of the many reasons I re-activated the Animation Caucus with Bonnie Datt.
In the meanwhile, I focus my support on the workers who can organize. We need to expand our jurisdiction, grow our membership, and thrive as a union so we all have a better shot at a decent standard of living. In recent years, the Guild has had huge organizing victories in digital news and nonfiction, a direct result of long and dedicated campaigns waged by writers and supported by our organizers. This gives me hope. And this is where I promise to continue putting my efforts.
I first ran for a Council seat twelve years ago as part of a slate of candidates. We came together at a critical time and I’m proud to have helped revitalize our union. As directed by the Council, our executive director made organizing a priority, turning it into the Guild’s largest department. Under the leadership of Justin Molito, the organizing staff has pulled together an astonishing run of new deals. This brings unprecedented optimism to and activism among members, staff, leadership, and beyond; the WGAE is respected nationwide within the labor movement, which is amazing given its relatively small size. Yet huge challenges remain and the last thing we can afford is complacency. We must continue to win and enforce contracts, identify new targets, organize, mobilize… and above all, stay vigilant.
During my six terms, I have served not only on the Council, but on numerous committees, working groups, and caucuses. I am one of the founding members of Future Members, a committee that actively supports the Guild’s organizing drives. I also served on the Constitution Committee, was a picket captain during the strike, and currently serve on the Council, National Council, and Executive Committee. I co-chair the Animation Caucus, which provides professional training and networking opportunities for both member and non-member writers and animators. If re-elected, my priorities will be to continue supporting organizing from both my seat on the Council and via committee work, while also working to meet the needs of current members.
I am proud to be endorsed by Hamilton Nolan and Kim Kelly, who are running for Council seats as digital writers.
I’ve story edited and/or written for four dozen animated series, for which I’ve been nominated for five Writers Guild Awards and four Emmys. Credits include: WELCOME TO THE WAYNE, ARTHUR, WONDER PETS!, OSWALD THE OCTOPUS, HAPPILY EVER AFTER, READING RAINBOW, COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? I’ve also written specials and documentaries and won a WGA award for Best Documentary in PBS’ “Paving the Way”. Currently, I’m headwriting CREATIVE GALAXY for Amazon.
I also write plays and books. Along with my husband, fellow WGAE member Laurence Klavan, I wrote Wasteland, a young adult fiction trilogy currently in print from HarperCollins. Prior to that, we wrote two graphic novels, City of Spies and Brain Camp. I also teach creative writing in the low-residency MFA program at Goddard College: a rare union job in the adjunct world.
Comedy-variety writers are an influential and vibrant slice of the WGA membership. Especially in the East. That slice should have a seat at the Council table. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be elected. The experience was so deeply meaningful in terms of just being able to observe the passion and commitment of my fellow members, I did not want to deprive myself the opportunity to serve again.
I won’t lie to you. For the first six months I attended Council meetings, I understood maybe five percent of what was said. And if people hadn’t made the occasional, yet delightfully snarky remark about the West, I wouldn’t have understood anything. But the generosity of veteran members and WGAE staff to impart their knowledge and insight into crucial issues was both infectious and unavoidable. Simply put, I didn’t get the Council, it got me.
The last two years have been positively transformative for the Guild. In addition to breaking through and organizing several digital shops, like Huffington Post, Vice and (for a glorious few moments) Gawker, and finally breaking down the State of New York on a diversity tax credit, we dealt with the onerous looming MBA negotiations by launching a novel approach toward our fellow members: Attracting their support rather than demanding it. That is why we were able to get record participation and approval on the Strike Authorization vote and not only avoid a work stoppage, but among the substantial gains, we were able to install a humane family leave platform and infuse our enviable Health Plan for many robust years to come.
Thanks to my presence at the Council meetings, I had the absolute pleasure of answering fellow Council member Bonnie Datt’s call to serve on the Awards Committee and helped to organize and work on the Writers Guild Awards show last February at the Edison Ballroom. It was beyond meaningful for me to see my former colleague, Steve O’Donnell, receive the Herb Sargent Award for long and meritorious service in mentoring other writers.
For 21 years, I was the shop steward at Late Show With David Letterman. During that time, with the help of Guild staffers like Ruth Gallo, Geoff Betts, Steve King and Gary Wesalo, I aggressively pursued and won favorable rulings that returned almost $2 million in overdue residuals and disregarded payments. Despite an undergraduate degree in Latin and Greek, I came up with the formula that fairly proportioned “combo rerun” pool payments (when multiple episodes are used to create a rebroadcast) and increased those residuals three and four-fold.
I originally ran for Council because I made a promise to myself that when my time working for David Letterman ended, I would give back to the organization that has taken such great pains to take care of me and my brethren. I run again because the fight is still in me and the blessed work of service still calls. And, selfishly, I got so much more back than I put in.
Chris Albers, Fred Armisen, Henry Bean, Kyle Bradstreet, Tom Fontana, Gina Gionfriddo, David Handelman, Steve Higgins, Susan Kim, Chris Kyle, Gail Lee, Steve O’Donnell, Zhubin Parang, Phil Pilato, Charlie Rubin, Courtney Simon, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Steve Young.
Since I was first elected to the WGAE Council in 2011, I’ve spent my three terms working hard to protect writers’ rights and welfare. Along with serving on Council, I’m the chair of one Guild committee and the co-chair of a caucus. These positions, as well as my work with the New Members (organizing) Committee, have afforded me continuous opportunities to be of service to my fellow members.
I do this work because I believe it’s crucial for writers to be represented by a strong Guild. In this constantly changing media landscape, the WGA must protect and continuously improve upon the rights of the writers we’ve traditionally represented in television, film and news, making sure that the studios and networks can’t erode the progress we’ve already made.
But for the Guild to survive and thrive, it is vital that we organize writers in new areas. The more segments of the industry we represent, the better it is for all writers and the more clout we’ll have negotiating for every one of our members. So for the past twelve years I’ve worked with the WGAE’s organizing department to try and expand the Guild’s coverage in the areas of scripted new media, non-fiction, basic cable, independent film, animation and digital news. We haven’t been successful in every sphere yet, but in some, like non-fiction, scripted new media and digital news, we’ve helped expand the Guild’s reach to new frontiers, giving much needed WGAE protection to writers who’ve never been able to benefit from it before, while simultaneously making the Guild itself stronger.
During my Council terms, I’ve taken part in multiple WGAE lobbying trips to Washington, DC and Albany to help promote national fair labor practices for freelance writers and the extension of the state’s production tax credit to diverse writers in New York. I was also a WGAE Delegate to a New York State AFL-CIO Convention. Due to my organizing work, I was one of a group of representatives who met with AFL- CIO President Richard Trumka to strategize about our non-fiction campaigns. I also attended sessions of an International Affiliation of Writers Guilds to learn how our sister unions around the world attempt to combat the economic issues that we all face. Recently, I was a Contract Captain, working to help avert a strike.
In 2012, my fellow Council member Susan Kim and I resuscitated the long dormant Animation Caucus. Since then, as its co-chairs, we’ve more than doubled the number of active caucus members from the group’s earlier incarnation. We’ve set up career development roundtables including ones focused on screenwriting, negotiating contracts, and pitching. We’ve encouraged cross-membership with the WGAE’s Digital Caucus, of which I’m also a member.
My focus has not been limited to organizing and lobbying. I’ve also worked as a producer and writer on every WGAE Awards show since 2009. In 2012, I became the first female chair of the Awards Committee, a position I continue to hold. Over the years, I’ve worked with the Guild’s staff, the show’s other producers and the rest of the committee’s members to dramatically lower the awards’ net-costs, while continuously striving to produce a show that’s entertaining and relevant.
Like many WGAE members, my writing background is varied. I started as a standup and wrote for other comedians. I’ve done punch-up on pilots and sitcoms for ABC, Disney and Paramount. I’ve written for cable shows on the USA and Oxygen networks, and children’s shows for PBS and Disney—including co-creating a pilot for the Disney Channel. I’ve also worked as a story producer on a nonfiction show. In the world of new media, I co-created an animated short and was a regular contributor to the digital news site Racked for five years. Due to my varied resume, I’ve learned firsthand the multiple ways which writers suffer without Guild representation. These experiences directly inspired my dedication to WGAE organizing.
In my personal life, I am very active in Democratic politics and frequently raise issues that are of importance to the Guild, such as our MBA negotiations, net neutrality and our nonfiction campaign, to politicians in Washington.
If reelected, I promise to continue building on my history of devoted WGAE service, working with members and staff to try to protect the rights of all my fellow members.
Hello union brothers and sisters. I am David Simon, a television drama writer and Guild member since 1995. And some joker nominated me to run for the WGAE Council. My first impulse is to find the guy and beat him like a rented mule, but my second impulse — the one more in concert with the elevated soul I wish to imagine for myself — will pull up just short of such violence to say it is an honor to be so considered.
I have been a union man for more than three decades since I first joined the Baltimore-Washington Newspaper Guild as a reporter. Since then, I’ve never been without a union card and I hope to say so until I am no longer laboring in any industry. Union membership allowed me to earn a living wage at the Baltimore Sun and later, with this Guild, it has continued to serve me economically and with creative protections that are essential in the collaborative storytelling that is film. Moreover, as this was the third time that someone in WGAE had either sought me out with either a nomination or a query about serving on the Council, I quickly succumbed to a certain amount of straight-up, too-much-taking-not-enough-giving-back guilt. Simply put, I have — like all of us — benefited tremendously from membership in the WGA. And over the years, many colleagues who I admire have undertaken laborious tasks for our collective good. Having ducked a couple of inquiries in prior elections already, I was loathe to do so again. So here I am.
But, hey, I had no way of knowing that five very capable incumbent Council members were also intent on continuing their terms. This is encouraging, because I believe the union finds itself at a couple of critical moments: The first involves our continuing efforts to see changes in the economics and platforming of television reflected in our contract protections and benefits, and the second involves the need for the WGA to do all it can to diversify the cohort of writers who create television. But again, I’m impressed with both those seeking to continue on the Council and the slate of new candidates and I’m entirely sanguine that the WGA East will have strong representation regardless. If it’s my turn to kick in and do some service for this union to which I owe so much, I’m on it. And if others have that in hand, they have my entire support.
In fact, it’s likely the other folk on this ballot have all of my votes.
Since I first ran for Council in 2007, on the eve of a strike that lasted a cold, cruel 100 days, I have witnessed a real evolution in our Guild. A vigorous spirit of activism has taken root in both the leadership and the membership and I’m so proud to be a part of it. As co-chair of the Diversity Committee, I have been inspired on a regular basis by committed people who know that change takes time and constant rededication, but the victories, when they happen, are worth it.
This year, we saw some major victories. At the end of June, the NY State Senate and the NY State Assembly passed legislation to provide a tax credit to employers that hire women and people of color to write and direct television in the state. The bill still needs the governor’s signature and there is still work to be done in the area of funding, but guess what? There’s always more work. That’s the first lesson for any of us, when we commit ourselves to making a difference. There is always more work to be done.
Another victory this year was the Made in NY Writers Room Initiative, a program created by the WGAE in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. As I write this, thirteen writers with diverse backgrounds are participating in a fellowship program that provides not only a financial stipend, but invaluable guidance and mentorship from established showrunners. This effort was years in the making.
These are exciting developments. And I have no doubt there will be more in the future, as the Diversity Committee and our allies continue to press for more inclusion and opportunity for the historically underserved members of our industry.
Last February, I had the honor of receiving the Richard B. Jablow Award for service to the Guild. I said that night that the Diversity Committee had provided me with some of the most rewarding work of my life. I want to continue that work. Being on the Council allows me to ensure that the fight for diversity remains in the forefront of the WGAE agenda.
Thank you for your vote.
During the MBA negotiations, I signed up as a contact captain and put time in organizing writers in New York as well as WGAE members working in LA. This period of time was a massive (and ongoing) education for me which included learning more about the institutional history of the Guild but also hearing in more detail the issues writers are grappling with as individuals and factions. I also got a clear view of what a fantastically brilliant, passionate, unruly bunch we are who demonstrated a real capacity to collaborate well together. It left me inspired.
If re-elected, my hope is to continue to do this kind of work which is to strengthen the membership’s relationship to the Guild itself and amongst each other. We should be doing this kind of organizing and communicating with each other all the time, not just in the years when our contracts are up for re-negotiation.
My credits include Tom Fontana’s Borgia, Copper, The Path, and American Odyssey. I completed undergraduate studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Dramatic Writing Program and went on to Juilliard’s Lila Acheson Playwriting Fellowship 2008-2010.
In addition to writing for theater and TV, I spent 9 years as a project coordinator for the Writers Guild Initiative’s Helen Deutsch Writing Workshops: free writing workshops for wounded warriors returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve also spent the last 6 years heavily involved in social and political activism mainly focused on tech/communications and movement building as well as racial justice and disaster relief. I also was a content writer and teacher for The Yes Men.
I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to run again for a seat on WGAE’s Council. Writing and activism have been the two major forces at work in my life for a number of years, and I view this as a chance to meld both. Writers are a community I care very deeply about and I hope I get the chance to serve you.
My candidacy has been endorsed by: Tom Fontana, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Elliot Kalan, Susan Kim, Chris Kyle, Willie Reale, Jackie Reingold, Liz Tuccillo, Michael Weller.
Candidates for Staff Seats
My name is Kim Kelly, and I’ve been a proud member of the WGAE since my coworkers and I in the VICE editorial department unionized in 2015. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to run for one of the Council’s open Staff seats.
My mission, if elected, will be to serve as a representative voice for the WGAE’s newly-organized digital media workers; to build solidarity with other media workers and unions across the industry as well as within the WGAE itself; and to encourage other digital media shops to rise up, get organized, and join the movement. I’m also committed to leveraging our collective political power to enact change and take a stand in support of the free press and against hate, bigotry, and right-wing intolerance. Labor unions have been behind every major social and political advancement in American history; now more than ever, we must remember our activist roots, and continue to fight like hell.
I’ve been involved with the VICE editorial union effort from day one, serving on the organizing committee and then later on the bargaining committee. Two years into our contract, I’ve stayed busy as a member of our Diversity Committee and Women’s Caucus, and co-running the VICE Union Twitter account with my colleague Karisa Maxwell. I’ve dropped by meetings at Fusion and Thrillist to answer questions about the organizing process, and spoke on the power of the ongoing digital labor revolution on a panel at this past Organizing 2.0 conference. I’m also involved in the current VICE Union drive to organize over 450 workers in the company’s production, digital, and TV sectors. Seeing the way our union contract immediately and tangibly improved the lives of everyone in our initial bargaining unit made it clear to me that we need to continue working to secure those same benefits and protections for everyone else in the building—and for every other media worker across this evolving, precarious industry.
Solidarity is our strength, and is why our unionizing efforts here at VICE have been—and continue to be—so successful. Becoming involved in this union has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and I want to give everyone else slugging it out in this uncertain media climate the chance to feel that same rush of pride I felt when I signed my first union card—that same flash of pride that my dad felt when he signed his, and my aunts and uncles when they signed theirs, and my grandparents when they signed theirs before them. Every worker deserves a fair deal and a solid union contract, and thanks to the WGAE’s tireless efforts, we’ve made massive strides in digital media organizing. There’s a lot more work to be done, though, and I intend to be out there on the front lines.
Hamilton Nolan and I share the same perspective and goals, so I hope that you’ll support both of us if what we’re saying resonates with you. The future is ours, if we’re strong enough to seize it.
I am grateful to be endorsed by Susan Kim, Hamilton Nolan, and Amy Sohn.
Moving forward with strength
From participating in contract negotiations for my workgroup to facing management, I believe in and fight for our collective strength. I currently work as a writer/producer under the ABC contract. As a shop co-steward at WABC-TV, I engage our members about their concerns and bring them to management. I also was part of the team that negotiated the ABC contract. I am not afraid to lend my voice to discussions that include top-level management. I firmly believe in acting on what is right for my colleagues. I will bring that conviction and solidarity to the Council.
I have spent nearly two decades in the communication industries. My diverse background includes previous membership in SAG/AFTRA and management positions in both news and a multi-billion dollar company. That broad understanding of both our industry and the mindset of corporate America will move us forward by keeping WGA strong and relevant.
WGA is full of creative professionals. Bringing members the best opportunities and shaping our future is my passion.
Jay A. Alpert
When the commander in chief says what you do for a living is “fake” – you have to stand up and do something.
That’s one reason I’m running for another term as a WGAE Council member representing News writers – but not the only one.
We work hard to get stories right, and sure we make mistakes, but at least we admit them and make corrections – unlike the current administration. We’re professionals and deserve decent pay and benefits.
The current administration is also not a friend of labor – making changes that would affect every member of the Writers Guild, changes in labor law enforcement, net neutrality and health care.
Those are things we as a Guild must fight – to not lose what we’ve already achieved.
I care deeply for working writers. Since I’ve been on the Council – one of my top priorities – and a top priority of my fellow Council members has been to organize non-union shops.
I’m proud to say during the last 10 years, our union has grown as a result of this effort.
Hundreds of Digital News writers are now part of our union – and finally get decent pay and benefits. And Non-Fiction TV writers are also being signed up. Some of them were working up to 60 hours a week with no overtime. Now they have 40 hour work weeks and better pay.
At the same time I and my fellow Council members realized we needed more diversity in the Guild – so we formed the Diversity committee – of which I am a member – and fought to get more women writers and writers of color into the fold. I’m proud to say our nearly decade-long effort finally paid off this year with the passage in the New York State Legislature of the Writers Diversity Tax Credit — which will give tax incentives to companies that hire writers of color and women writers — and establish writers’ rooms in New York.
Over the past ten years that I’ve been a Council member, I’ve walked the picket lines with our MBA brothers and sisters, met with members of our sister union – the WGA West as part of the National Council and represented other Council members on the Executive Committee – working with the officers of the Guild to further our causes. I’ve also helped work on the rewriting of the Guild’s constitution, and served on other committees, including the News Committee, as well as volunteering during our annual awards ceremonies.
Therefore I once again ask you to allow me to continue to serve you – the members of the Guild – by voting for me for another term as a Council member – after all it’s the members who run Guild and members who are the Guild.
Two years ago, my colleagues and I at Gawker Media became the first digital media company to unionize with the WGAE. Since then, hundreds of other workers in our industry have joined the WGAE as well. But digital media still does not have any representatives on the WGAE Council, and we would like to change that.
I have been a labor reporter for years, and for the past two years I’ve been active in trying to help the WGAE continue to organize our industry. Both of these things have convinced me that it is absolutely essential–to our union, to the union movement as a whole, and to America–to continue making organizing new members a top priority. Everyone deserves a union, and it’s our responsibility to help them get it. For decades, the WGAE’s members have been living proof of the benefits of having an organized industry. It goes without saying that we need to protect what has already been won. But I hope that during this era of growing inequality, we can spread those gains far and wide as well. The WGAE was kind enough to open its doors to us even though we were not their traditional members, and we need to do the same for everyone else in media, nonfiction TV, animation, and other relevant fields where workers suffer lower wages and worse benefits because they don’t have a union. (Yet.)
My top priorities if I’m elected to the Council will be:
- Giving some formal representation on the Council to the hundreds of WGAE members in the digital media industry. (Kim Kelly from Vice is also running for Council and I hope that you support both of us!)
- Finding ways to not only support but increase the WGAE’s ongoing new organizing efforts, which have already made this one of the most admired unions in the American labor movement.
- Working to bring together the many different writers in many different fields who now make up the WGAE, so that we can spread solidarity not just within our own industries, but throughout our entire union, and into the wide world of people who haven’t yet become unionized.
- Making sure our union is not shy about using our collective political power in these perilous political times.
I also endorse giving everyone free pie. I’m endorsed by Kim Kelly, Susan Kim, and Amy Sohn.
Dear Fellow Guild Members,
Hello, I’m David Keller and I’m running for reelection to the WGA Council as a staff member. I’m 62 years old, married, and have two daughters. I have a BFA from School of Visual Arts in NYC, and have worked as a graphic artist in television since 1984. I have been a Guild member for over 30 years and have been actively involved with the WGAE in contract negotiations, in various pickets, rallies, leafleting, and served as a shop steward for the Network Graphics Department. My association as a graphic artist with CBS began in 1985, and I was made staff in 1995. In 1992 I received an Emmy for Graphic Design for the CBS Evening News, along with my department. I began working with CBS News Graphics and have worked with CBS Sports for over the last fifteen years.
What an amazing two years it has been since I was first elected to the Council! The WGA has greatly increased our membership by unionizing several digital media outlets, including the Huffington Post, VICE, Fusion and Salon. During this time the WGA has negotiated successful contracts with CBS, ABC and the MBA. And our union has been at the forefront in helping to pass the recent TV Diversity Bill in the New York State Senate and Assembly. Our Health and Pension Fund is solid and secure, as well as the overall financial health of the Guild, which says a lot in these challenging times facing unions (and labor in general) across the country.
Serving in the Council these past two years has been most rewarding in being a part of the voting and decision making process, as well as participating in various union events and actions. I hope to continue to serve the membership in the best of my ability, which is why I am asking for your vote for Staff Council.
I am seeking your vote, because I think the Guild plays a tremendous role in our lives. I would like to lobby for those who are still at work.
Yes, the way we get our thoughts out to the masses, has changed radically over the years. But perfecting our crafts, remain key to our survival. Many writers never get to that “high point” for decades. But our financial interests are guarded by the Guild, throughout our careers.
I am a Lifetime member of the Guild, after holding active membership for 35 years. I have negotiated four separate contracts with ABC News, during the last 12 years at work.
I am now retired, and enjoying the fantastic benefits, the Guild has negotiated over the years.