Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) Overview

What is the MBA?

The Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) is the collective bargaining agreement that covers the benefits, rights, and protections for most of the work done by WGA members.

Every three years, the Writers Guild of America, East and the Writers Guild of America West negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the entertainment industry’s official collective bargaining representative. The contract covers screen, television, and new media writers.

Among the most important benefits of Writers Guild membership as a writer for screen, television, or new media are the rights and protections negotiated in, and protected by, the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA). This agreement affects writers’ salaries, benefits, pensions, working conditions, residual payments, and creative rights. Without a Guild contract, each writer is on their own to negotiate their contracts and determine terms for residuals, prompt payment, and credits. With a Guild contract, all of this is worked out in advance so that writers receive their fair share of compensation and recognition for their work. The Guild also steps in to assist writers if their employers do not live up to the contract.

When preparing for MBA negotiations, the Guild consults with members covered by the MBA for their input. This ensures that the contract addresses the issues that are most important to members.

The contract currently in place was negotiated in 2020. The 2020 MBA will be effective May 2, 2020 through May 1, 2023.

Minimum Basic Agreement: Fast Facts

  • Renegotiated every three years.
  • Current MBA is effective May 2, 2020 through May 1, 2023
  • Determines and secures compensation, benefits, working conditions, creative rights, and more for screen, television, and new media writers.

When preparing for MBA negotiations, the Guild consults with members covered by the MBA for their input. This ensures that the contract addresses the issues that are most important to members.

What does the MBA cover?

The MBA covers issues relating to compensation, fringe benefits (pension plan and health fund), working conditions, residual payments, use of literary material, and the enforcement of contract provisions.

Schedule of Minimums

How much you get paid for your work is the core of any union contract. But in the entertainment industry, even this seemingly simple concept is complicated in practice, and the MBA is complicated as a result. The Schedule of Minimums is a companion piece to the MBA, and summarizes the compensation rates outlined in Article 13 of the agreement.

Arbitration

Read more about Arbitration.

As is the case in any union contract, the MBA outlines the protocol and procedures for handling those  situations in which the participating parties of the contract may not see things in precisely the same way. These provisions specify the types of disputes which can be grieved and arbitrated.

Some examples of matters which the Guild has grieved and/or taken to arbitration include:

  • failure to pay agreed-upon compensation for writing services (or delay in payment)
  • failure to pay domestic or foreign residuals (or delay in payment)
  • disputes about the number of drafts submitted for which payment is due
  • violation by company of speculative writing provisions of the MBA
  • whether notice of termination of daytime serial writers was timely
  • whether travel arrangements comply with applicable MBA provisions.

Credits

Read more about Credits.

The responsibility for determining writing credits is one of the most far-reaching services the Guild performs for its members. The rules dictating Credits are spelled out in the Guild’s Screen Credits Manual and the Television Credits Manual and have been the subject of exhaustive study by Guild committees in the past several years. Please visit our Credits Survival Guide to learn more.

Benefits

The MBA provides for a pension plan and a health insurance fund for writers. These benefits are maintained through employer contributions and are governed by employer and employee representatives (“Trustees”). There are annual eligibility requirements both for vesting in the pension and for health coverage. For more information about health & pension benefits for members, visit the PWGA Plan website.

In addition, Guild members are eligible for discounted rates and services at a number of companies and organizations. Members can find more information about these benefits by logging into their online accounts and visiting Benefits (🔒).

Residuals

One of the benefits that credited writers receive under the Writers Guild Minimum Basic Agreement is compensation for the reuse of their material. This compensation is called residuals.

The Residuals Survival Guide provides writers with a basic knowledge of residual compensation—what it is, who receives it, and when it is due.

Improving Diversity

The MBA includes a provision which allows employers to establish diversity programs in order to increase job opportunities for minorities, women, the disabled, and writers over the age of 40.

For more information about the Guild’s work to improve diversity in the media industry, visit Diversity.

Protecting Rights

The MBA establishes certain rights for writers when it comes to protecting their creative work. These provisions are secured and enforced by the MBA, but it is also beneficial for writers to know their rights so they can remain confident that their employers are treating them end their work with fairness and respect. The WGA offers guides for writers which cover a range of issues that are addressed within the pages of the MBA, including:

Creative Rights

The MBA contains provisions that preserve writers’ creative rights. Read more about creative rights

Separated Rights

A long-standing concern of increasing importance to writers of original material is the extent to which they and the production companies employing them may exploit their literary material in different media, including but not limited to: the stage (dramatic rights); publication including novelizations; merchandising; and sequels and/or series. Read more about separated rights..

Reacquisition

Writers who created an original screenplay which never got produced who would like to set up their work at another Company may be able to do so through the MBA. There is a provision in the MBA that allows writers to buy back their unproduced, original literary material. The MBA refers to this as reacquisition. Read more about reacquisition.

To learn more about the provisions of the MBA and what they mean for WGA Freelance members, please visit What Every Writer Needs to Know.

Among the most important benefits of Writers Guild membership as a writer for screen, television, or new media are the rights and protections negotiated in, and protected by, the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA).

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