The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing thousands of members who write content for motion pictures, television, news and digital media. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government.
- Who we are
- What we do
- Why our work matters
- Where we came from (and where we’re going)
- When you should contact us
- How you can get involved
Fast Facts about the Guild
- Founded in 1954
- Comprised of writers and creative professionals in film, TV, radio, and digital industries.
- Over 4,700 members (and growing)
Who we are
The Writers Guild of America, East is a labor union whose membership is comprised of over 4,700 writers and media professionals. Our members are the primary creators of what is seen, heard, and read across television, film, radio, and the internet.
Our members create everything from big-budget movies and independent films to television dramas, sitcoms, and comedy/variety shows, from daytime television to nonfiction/”reality” television to broadcast, radio and digital news, from podcasts, web series, and animation to reality TV shows and documentaries.
In general, our membership is divided into two groups, based on the two types of contracts we negotiate:
- Freelance members are primarily the writers of feature film, television, and digital/new media projects. Freelance members work under the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), as well as other related Freelance agreements.
- Staff members are primarily the writers of news programs across television, radio, and digital platforms. These members work under workplace/”shop”-specific contracts, which are negotiated between each shop’s bargaining unit and its management.
Our membership jurisdiction covers a range of titles and positions within these two categories.
How the Guild operates
The WGAE, like any labor union, is run by its members. Members are represented by a Council comprised of an elected body of fellow Guild members. The Council meets monthly to review the reach and work of the union. Council elections are held annually, and all current members in active status are eligible to vote.
The Council works with an Executive Director and a team of Guild staff who do everything from administering credits and residual payments, to negotiating contracts, to seeking out and organizing new members, to managing events and programming.
What we do
As a labor union, one of the Guild’s primary functions is to make sure that our members are credited, paid, and provided benefits in accordance with the industry standards that we have established through decades of collective bargaining with media and production companies. We ensure that these standards are met through the contracts we negotiate.
WGAE members work everywhere in the entertainment and news industry, but wherever they are, we are there to negotiate and enforce fair contracts. Although our contracts cover a broad range of positions and titles and represent workers in many corners of the industry, they can generally be grouped into two categories:
Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA)
In 2017, the WGAE, in conjunction with the Writers Guild of America West, renegotiated the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), which covers the economic standards for the majority of our members who write for television and feature films. The MBA is renegotiated every three years, and is the agreement which ensures that writers’ benefits and rights are protected.
What benefits and rights are protected under the MBA?
- Minimum Compensation
- Credit for Your Work
- Residual Payments
- Separated Rights
- Pension & Health Benefits
Other Freelance Contracts
In addition to the MBA, the Guild negotiates and enforces other Freelance contracts which cover writers who work on low-budget projects—such as documentaries and independent films—and digital/new media projects, such as webseries and videogames. The protections afforded by freelance contracts are similar to those afforded by the MBA.
Many of our members are covered by Staff Contracts, or collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). Staff contracts tend to cover workplaces where members all work in one location (or “shop”). These members primarily work in news, be it for television, radio, or digital outlets.
The Guild doesn’t stop working for our members once their contracts are negotiated: we also enforce contracts to ensure that the protections and benefits which our members fought long and hard to secure are being met and respected by their employers.
Beyond the workplace…
In addition to the work we do to protect members in the workplace, the Guild also seeks to expand and enrich the union and its members in other ways.
Programs and Services
The Writers Guild of America, East offers the most affordable script registration service in the industry. Script registration provides members and nonmembers alike with the professional and creative protection of scripts and other written material.
The Guild puts on events and programs for our members throughout the year – which include film screenings, research panels, tax planning seminars, know your rights trainings, and more – and hosts the annual Writers Guild Awards ceremony in New York.
We also work closely with our foundation, the Writers Guild Initiative. The WGI is a non-profit organization which brings the art and craft of storytelling to underserved populations. Their goal is to help individuals from all walks of life to find their voices and tell their stories.
Expanding the Union
Since our goal is to improve the living standards for all creative professionals, our work to protect creative professionals extends beyond our current membership. We are active in efforts to expand and grow our union through Organizing campaigns and Caucuses.
Organizing: From the writer/producers of reality television shows to editors at digital news organizations, we help people achieve equitable compensation, management transparency, editorial autonomy, and newsroom diversity. We have had a long string of successful organizing campaigns for digital media sites like Gizmodo Media Group, Vice, Vox Media, and others — and there are more organizing campaigns still to come. Learn more about our organizing work for staff news workers, and about how you can get involved.
Caucuses: As independent film, web series and animation evolve and expand, we work with industry-established non-members whose in education and programs designed to develop the art, craft and career opportunities for professional writers. We do so through our caucuses, which are divided according to career focus. Learn more about how our caucuses serve as a path to membership for freelance writers.
Why our work matters
No matter the industry, joining together in a union enables workers to negotiate for higher wages and benefits and improve conditions in the workplace. Being a part of a union also gives workers a voice and a hand in determining their working conditions.
It was not until Hollywood’s screenwriters originally organized in the 1930s that the standards in the news and entertainment industries began to change for the better. Our union has been standing together – in ever-growing numbers – ever since, to both build upon and hold onto our achievements.
Where we come from…
The Writers Guild of America, East was officially founded in 1954, but the path to the Writers Guild is a long one which runs alongside the histories of both the entertainment industry and the labor movement. Since 1954, the Writers Guild of America, East and Writers Guild of America West have negotiated and administered minimum basic agreements with major film producers and networks and stations, covering theatrical and television films, broadcast and cable television, documentary film and radio, public and commercial television.
From adding writers from the then-emerging television industry to our ranks in the 1950s, to striking for fair compensation for digital distribution platforms during the 2008 MBA contract negotiations, the Writers Guild of America, East also has a long history of advocating for the rights of writers and creative professionals from new and developing media industries. Since 2015, we’ve continued that legacy by building power at digital media sites through successful organizing campaigns at Gawker Media, Vice, HuffPost, Vox Media, and others; and in the nonfiction industry through both our Portable Healthcare campaign and successful organizing campaigns at production companies like Peacock, Sharp, and ITV.
… and where we’re going
We’ve come a long way since 1954, and we’re going further still in our efforts to grow our numbers and protect our members in all aspects of life. Just as our understanding of media has changed since the mid-20th century – and just as that understanding will likely shift in the years to come – so too has our conception what it means to be part of the Writers Guild changed over the years.
The priorities for the WGAE going forward are to…
- continue to make gains in our established Contracts,
- Negotiate better and stronger contracts for current members, as well as more first contracts in Nonfiction TV and Digital Media,
- serve as an organization that proactively advocates for greater Diversity in the workforce and on our screens,
- continue our Activism efforts,
- and expand and grow the union and worker empowerment through Organizing campaigns and Caucuses.
When you should contact us
The short answer is: any time. Whether you’re a new member, non-member, or have been part of the Guild for decades, you are not alone in your career. Writers have power in navigating your career because they are navigating it alongside the thousands of their fellow creative professionals who work under WGA-negotiated contracts.
If you have a question about management practices, compensation, or contracts, you can reach out to the Guild’s staff to seek advice or support. From issues related to inclusion, to vetting a producer, to accessing online Member accounts, to registering for events, your Guild is here for you.
We encourage writers and creative professionals across the industry to be active, ask questions, and help shape what it means to be a part of the Writers Guild of America, East.
How you can get involved with the Guild
The WGAE works to promote and protect writers’ professional and artistic interests, but any labor union is only as strong as its members are active and engaged. We encourage our members to get involved with the Guild, and offer plenty of ways to do so:
Join the Activist List
The Writers Guild of America, East is an activist organization. We are deeply engaged in building power for writers and creative professionals through our organizing campaigns, supporting pertinent legislation and fighting to win benefits and pay that improve our members’ lives.
Occasionally, we ask our members to help us build this power through union actions, which range from signing petitions, to calling government representatives, to attending rallies, to talking about issues on social media. You can help be a part of this work by joining our Activist List.
Our members come together through our programming. From coaching sessions to writing roundtables, from screenings to happy hours, members can always find an opportunity to spend time getting to know – and working alongside – their peers.
We host and sponsor programs for members throughout the year, and members can stay up-to-date by visiting our Events calendar.
Current members can foster relationships and learn about new trends in the entertainment industry by joining Caucuses, talk to their non-member peers about the importance of Organizing a union at their workplace, and help the Writers Guild Initiative achieve their mission to underrepresented and disadvantaged communities tell their stories.
If you’re a non-member, there are still ways for the Guild to help you advocate for yourself and protect your rights as a creative professional:
- Talk to Organizing if you work in the digital news or nonfiction industries and aren’t currently covered by a union contract
- Learn more about Caucuses if you’re a writer for an indie film, new media, documentary or animation project and aren’t currently covered by a Guild contract.
The best way to know how you can get involved with the Guild is to stay up-to-date with our work. You can do this by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram; signing up for our e-blasts; and reading OnWriting, the official publication of the Writers Guild of America, East.