Why organize your workplace?
When writers decide to work together to organize a union at their workplace, they create the leverage and power they need to improve their working lives.
Guild-covered jobs at movie studios, broadcast news shows, and late-night shows didn’t become Guild-covered jobs by sheer luck: Generations of writers worked together to win and maintain strong union contracts.
As the boundaries of the media industry have expanded and shifted over the years, the Guild’s membership has followed suit: since the Guild began in 1954, our membership has grown to include not just film, television, and radio writers, but also the creative professionals of webseries, nonfiction television, and digital news.
For decades, the Writers Guild has played a central role in fighting for better standards in working conditions, compensation, and respect and dignity for our members.
Without a union, an employer can pay you anything they want, as long as it’s at least the minimum wage. They can require you to attend “brainstorming” sessions or write multiple “drafts” of a script for free. They don’t have to provide health care or retirement benefits. They can require you to work 20 hours in a row.
If you’re working a non-union job right now, you know that non-union workers in the media and entertainment industry are too often denied benefits such as:
- Health insurance and retirement benefits
- Fair compensation and/or a share in the profits generated by their work
- An equitable credit process
- Support when they have a conflict with an employer
When you organize and win a contract, you not only improve your own life, but you help all writers by making the union stronger.
Creative professionals who work under WGA contracts receive these benefits – and many others – because they are members of a strong labor union. The Writers Guild of America, East, has gained the respect of the industry and the support of the general public by fighting for and achieving strong, fair union contracts.
Making the industry stronger.
While our members’ work spans a broad range of platforms, mediums, genres and topics, their membership in the Guild means that they have power, protection, and a voice in what happens at their workplace. Forming a staff union at means that you and your colleagues have the ability to advocate for yourselves at the bargaining table.
Fundamentally, the demand of any group of workers forming a union is the same – to win a formal seat at the table in order to negotiate over the future of their workplace. Negotiating a union contract is a core element of any unionized workplace. However, it doesn’t stop there. Organized workplaces have structures for democratic representation and collective decision making processes. That means that unionized companies have a mechanism in place to share information across employees and to take collective action if and when necessary.
Organizing a union isn’t only about the future of one company, however. Industries with union density have fewer pay gaps and higher pay overall. Union members across the media and entertainment industry are working together to support each other and build a long-term movement to address and change systemic issues.
When you organize and win a contract, you not only improve your own life, but you help all industry members by making the whole union stronger.
The benefits to organizing a staff union with the Writers Guild go beyond workplace protections. Guild staff works with the elected Council and interested members to implement a range of initiatives. In just the last year, the Guild has held writing fellowship programs; hosted events like film screenings, social gatherings, and professional development courses; and collaborated on initiatives like the Diversity Coalition and lobbying for diversity tax credits in film and television production.
Members also participate in the annual Writers Guild Awards, receive free film screeners, and have the opportunity to join a national community of creative professionals in media and entertainment.
If you’re ready to form a union at your workplace, reach out to a WGAE staff organizer. If you’d like to learn more, read our union explainer, which was written by Guild members from the Vox Media Union.