Options & Exclusivity: The Ability to Find Work
Since 2014, the MBA has protected many Article 13 staff writers and Article 14 writer-producers from burdensome options and exclusivity provisions that held writers long-term without pay.
In the 2020 negotiations, the Guild made several improvements to the options and exclusivity protections in the MBA, which limit how long a writer can be held unpaid in first position, limit exclusivity to active employment periods only, and now include protections for short employment.
Because the MBA’s options and exclusivity protections are limited to certain writers, it is important to understand if it applies to your employment.
- Article 13 and Article 14 writers on episodic series or serial
- On series with fewer than 22 episodes or less than 40 weeks of employment
- Writers earning less than $280,500 are covered by options and exclusivity.
- *For contracts made on or after May 2, 2021, the cap will increase to $325,000.
- Writers earning less than $250,000 on a children’s program are covered.
If Options and Exclusivity Applies
For writers covered by the MBA’s options and exclusivity provision, a company may only hold a writer unpaid in first position for 60 days from the date the last payment for the initial employment is due. After that 60-day period ends, if the company does not pay at least 1/3rd of the weekly minimum to hold the writer in first position, then the writer can look for other work. If the writer finds another job, the company can either exercise the option and return the writer to work, or give up its first-position status and the writer will be free to accept the other employment.
Companies may not require the writer to remain exclusive after the last payment to the writer in the contract year becomes due.
Short Employment Protection:
In the 2020 negotiations, the Guild negotiated a new provision related to short employment (often referred to as “mini-rooms”). For contracts made on or after August 1, 2020, a company may not negotiate an option to hold a writer employed for eight weeks or less, unless the option is for employment that begins immediately following the initial short employment. This protection applies to all writers earning less than $280,500 in the initial employment period of 8 weeks or less.
If the initial employment is more than eight weeks, then the “60-day rule” above applies, and the writer will be free to take other employment, unless the Company puts the writer back to work or elects to pay the writer to remain in first position.
If Options and Exclusivity Do Not Apply
Writers who exceed the employment or earnings thresholds for options and exclusivity protections under the MBA can negotiate overscale protections in an individual deal. These protections may include provisions allowing concurrent work on other projects, no holds after mini-rooms longer than 8 weeks unless immediate future employment is offered, and other mutual options that require the writer’s agreement to exercise.