WGA East joins Arts, Entertainment, and Media Unions Legislative Push to Advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
NEW YORK, NY (February 11, 2021) – Today, the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) joined other arts, entertainment, and media unions affiliated with the Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO (DPE) to announce a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policy agenda at a digital press conference with union leaders, staff, and members.
The DEI policy agenda details the legislative action the unions will urge members of Congress to support to help make their industries more representative.
The DEI policy agenda seeks to support middle class careers, through passing legislation like the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the AM-FM Act, and reforming Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The policy agenda also centers on increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting to support the opportunities needed to create wide and diverse talent pipelines. It also calls on government agencies to appoint chief diversity officers. With states like Illinois, New Jersey, and New York leading the way on enacting tax incentives to encourage diverse hiring, the policy agenda lifts up these states as examples to create federal tax incentives that will spur more inclusive hiring in film, television, and live entertainment.
At the press conference, Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said, “We believe that the lack of diversity in the ranks of professional writers stems, not from a lack of talent, but from a lack of opportunity. We have built programs to ensure that historically underrepresented writers – women, BIPOC writers, and more – not only have the opportunity to develop skills but more importantly the opportunity to gain access to industry decision-makers. This is the basic orientation of our many mentorship, skills-training, and networking programs. Our programs are also about power – building the power of our members, developing diverse leaders in our union and in the industry who can exercise power to make real change. We also believe that the key players – industry, government, and we ourselves – must take concrete action. The equity and inclusion work we do, and the programs we ask the government to undertake, are essential not only as a matter of social justice but also to the long-term survival of the arts and entertainment industries and the good union jobs they create. Audiences want stories that reflect their own experiences and perspectives. We are fully committed to making that happen.”
WGAE member and acclaimed writer Tracey Scott Wilson also spoke at the press conference and said, “I don’t believe the Federal government can, with one bill or even with a set of bills solve these deep seated problems but they can be a powerful implement for change. They can support diversity through funding, tax incentives and policy decisions that make equity a top priority. We’re not asking policymakers to support this just because it’s fair or because it makes them feel good. In the long run, it’s just good business sense because diversity pays. In October a new report from the UCLA-based Center for Scholars and Storytellers, researchers found that bringing authentic diversity to film improves financial performance at the box office while a lack of diversity can result in losses for studios. Diversity is a strength and will ensure our industry will stay relevant and viable now and in the future.”
DPE President Jennifer Dorning said, “Diversity is a strength. Creative professionals and their unions know this, and continue to prioritize making their industries more accessible to underrepresented people. Advocating for policy changes at the national level is a natural continuation of the work arts, entertainment, and media unions have been doing to advance DEI in their creative industries. We look forward to working with members of Congress and their offices to make these smart policy solutions a reality.”
The unions putting forth this DEI policy agenda include Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), American Federation of Musicians (AFM), American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Guild of Italian American Actors (GIAA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians (IATSE), Artists and Allied Crafts (AAC), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).