Apple has agreed to the terms and conditions of the Writers Guild of America’s current master contract — a development that the WGA says will have major implications at the next round of contract talks.
The WGA West revealed the development to members in a message sent Thursday by WGA West president David A. Goodman and executive director David Young.
The duo also said Apple has agreed to terms that are above the minimum basic agreement if its programming is offered free to consumers online — which will ensure that writers employed by Apple will be covered on issues such as script fees, weekly payments, and residuals for any show that airs free to the consumer.
“These deal terms are significant,” Goodman and Young said. “First, the current MBA does not contain minimums or residuals for projects on free-to-consumer services (think Crackle). Terms have to be negotiated on a writer by writer basis. Except, now, at Apple.”
The pair also said that the development is particularly important in advance of the upcoming negotiations with companies for a successor deal. The current contract — which was hammered out less than an hour before expiration last year — will expire on May 1, 2020. The WGA reps more than 14,000 members.
“Second, while almost all Guild-covered Internet programming has thus far been under a subscription (consumer pay) model — like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — Facebook has already launched shows on their free-to-consumer service,” Goodman and Young said. “As this market develops, it will be imperative to negotiate MBA protections for writers creating content for such services. Our Apple deal moves us in that direction while the 2020 negotiations are still two years away.”
The duo also said that the work is covered only if it’s performed for the new signatory company, Apple Development LLC. Read the entire message below.
We are happy to inform you that earlier this week Apple became a full signatory to the 2017 WGA MBA.
In addition, Apple has agreed to better-than-MBA terms if its programming is offered free to consumers online. This means that writers employed by the new signatory, Apple Development LLC, will have MBA terms like script fees, weeklies and residuals for any show that airs free to the consumer.
These deal terms are significant. First, the current MBA does not contain minimums or residuals for projects on free-to-consumer services (think Crackle). Terms have to be negotiated on a writer by writer basis. Except, now, at Apple.
Second, while almost all Guild-covered Internet programming has thus far been under a subscription (consumer pay) model — like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu — Facebook has already launched shows on their free-to-consumer service. As this market develops, it will be imperative to negotiate MBA protections for writers creating content for such services. Our Apple deal moves us in that direction while the 2020 negotiations are still two years away.
It is important to point out that currently these MBA-plus terms apply only to writers working directly for the Apple signatory. The Guild is looking to assist members who are developing shows with other producers for Apple, Facebook, Crackle or other free-to-consumer platforms, in order to negotiate appropriate contract terms. Please call the Guild’s Contracts Department at 323-782-4501 so we may be aware of your project and your contract details.
David A. Goodman, President
David Young, Executive Director”
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Leaders of the Writers Guild of America West have given a four-year contract extension with a two-year option to exec director David Young, who organized the 2007-08 writers strike that rocked Hollywood.
In a strong endorsement of Young’s 12-year tenure, the WGA West board unanimously voted to extend the exec’s contract. WGA West president David A. Goodman confirmed the extension to Variety.
“David Young has done exceptional work,” Goodman said. “I know I speak for the board of directors and the membership that he will continue in that capacity.”
The extension and options lock in Young to head the 9,000-member guild for the next two rounds of successor negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which serves as the negotiating unit for the showbiz congloms and their production companies. The current three-year deal expires May 1, 2020.
Young led the negotiations a year ago for the successor contract with a deal being hammered out an hour before the contract expired. The WGA touted gains in short-order series compensation, family leave and shoring up the health plan.
The WGA West is currently in a battle with Hollywood’s top talent agencies over what’s perceived by the guild as potential conflicts of interest due to the agencies moving aggressively moving into production — meaning that the same company represents the creative talent on one side of the table and is the employer on the other.
The WGA told members on April 6 that it had sent the Association of Talent Agents a 12-month notice to terminate the existing deal, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement, and has asked for extensive changes in how agents do business. The terms and conditions of the current agreement will remain in effect through April 6, 2019, but will expire if a new agreement is not reached.
No meetings have been set and leaders of the agencies have privately expressed frustration over what they say is an unwillingness by the WGA to meet informally on the issue.
Young was given a five-year extension via unanimous vote in 2013. According to the guild’s latest LM-2 report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, Young was paid $573,032 for the reporting period ended March 31, 2017.
Young joined the WGA in 2004 as its organizing director and replaced John McLean on an interim basis in 2005 after the board fired McLean over disappointment with the failure to achieve a change in the DVD residual formula. Firing McLean portended a hardened bargaining position as then-president Patric Verrone promised the WGA would take a more assertive approach in negotiations and organizing.
Young lost the interim tag in 2006 as the sniping escalated between guild leaders and then-AMPTP chief Nick Counter and bargaining went nowhere. With the guild having prepped its members extensively, the WGA negotiating committee received a strike authorization of over 90% in October 2007 and the 100-day strike began in November after negotiations cratered on a variety of divisive issues such as how writers would be compensated for new-media work and for reuse of their work in digital platforms.
Young was widely credited for running a well-organized strike featuring extensive picketing and rallies that benefited from strong support by the Screen Actors Guild and the Teamsters. The work stoppage forced a halt to most TV series in the middle of a season. The strike ended after the WGA accepted in a deal in February 2008 with terms that were similar to those negotiated by the Directors Guild of America a few weeks earlier.
The extension had not been revealed to the membership but Goodman said Friday that the board had taken the vote several months earlier. The news was first reported by Deadline.
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The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
Headline Photo selected by your Imaginative Watchdog. Woof!
The Anita Hill-led Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace is asking Hollywood to pony up millions of dollars to fund its mission over the next five years. All the major networks, studios, talent agencies and guilds are being asked to contribute to cover the cost of its work.
“Everybody’s being asked to pitch in,” a source on the commission told Deadline. “Each organization is being asked to make a financial contribution, at different levels. There are a lot of start-up costs. They have circulated a budget, and they’re trying to fund the budget.”
The source wouldn’t give specifics on the budget, other than to say it’s “over $1 million a year, but less than $5 million.”
The WGA West, for instance, recently was asked to contribute $500,000 in equal installments of $100,000 over each of the next five years. At a recent board meeting, the guild approved the first payment and will re-evaluate its financial commitment to the program after one year.
The DGA also is known to have contributed “a sizable amount” for the effort.
Peter Bart: How Will Sexual Harassment Commission Impact Hollywood’s Alpha Male Culture?
The commission has a deep pool of other organizations to hit up for funding, and it has reached out to all of the commissioners who attended its founding meeting in December, including:
Film Academy CEO Dawn Hudson
AMPTP president Carol Lombardini
TV Academy president and CEO Maury McIntyre
Association of Talent Agents executive director Karen Stuart
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow
Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger
Paramount chair and CEO Jim Gianopulos
CBS chair and CEO Leslie Moonves
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos
Warner Bros. chair and CEO Kevin Tsujihara
Sony chair and CEO Tony Vinciquerra
Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chair Jeff Shell
Amazon svp of business development Jeff Blackburn
CAA co-chair Bryan Lourd
WME co-chair Ari Emanuel
UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer
ICM Partners founding partner Chris Silbermann SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris
DGA national executive director Russ Hollander
WGA West executive director David Young
PGA associate national executive director/COO Susan Sprung
WGA West executive director David Young
IATSE vp Mike Miller
Atlantic Records chair and COO Julie Greenwald
Universal Music Group chair and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge
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When this lady ask them to Pony up, you can bet she ain’t horsing around!
The WGA’s new film and TV contract was approved tonight in Los Angeles by the board of the WGA West and in New York by the council of the WGA East. It now goes to the guilds’ members for final ratification, which is all but guaranteed.
There was lots of backslapping at tonight’s meetings and praise for the writers’ negotiating committee – which worked for free – and for the guilds’ chief negotiator, WGA West executive director David Young.
A deal on the new pact, which averted a threatened strike, was reached early Tuesday morning after weeks of on-again-off-again negotiations, and about an hour after the midnight expiration of the old contract.
The agreement with management’s AMPTP calls for across the board increases in guild minimums and tens of millions of dollars in additional employer contributions to the WGA’s ailing health plan, which guild leaders say “should ensure its solvency for years to come.”
One of the guilds’ major goals going into the talks was to hammer out a new pay formula for short-order TV shows – seasons of 10-13 episodes that have come to dominate the industry – that pay for only half of a traditional full season even though they usually take their writers off the market for a full year. To address this problem, the guilds won new provisions further expanding protections known as options and exclusivity, and new contract language that established an episodic fee for each 2.4 weeks of work. Any writing beyond that span will now require additional payments for hundreds of writer-producers, whose pay has been in decline in recent years.
The new contract also calls for a 15% increase in Pay TV residuals; some $15 million in increases in high-budget SVOD residuals; job protection for parental leave; and, for the first time ever, residuals for comedy-variety writers working on Pay TV shows.
In a statement to their members issued shortly after the agreement was reached, guild leaders said: “Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not. But because we had the near-unanimous backing of you and your fellow writers, we were able to achieve a deal that will net this guild’s members $130 million more, over the life of the contract, than the pattern we were expected to accept.”
As negotiators return to the bargaining table today to hammer out a new WGA film and TV contract, the guild has offered a rare peak behind the closed doors that led to the talks breaking off on March 23 after two weeks of bargaining. As it turned out, it literally was a game of chicken.
In a nearly hourlong guild podcast taped before the talks got back under way(listen to it here), four members of the WGA negotiating committee – former WGA West president Chris Keyser, board members Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray and WGA East member Kate Erikson – spoke candidly about the events leading up to the impasse.
“I just want to clear something up,” Keyser said, “because there has been such a misinformation campaign by the AMPTP about how the talks broke down in the first place – this idea that the Writers Guild walked out of the talks. It’s just an absolutely provable falsehood. We made an absolutely major, major step in the negotiations, which I thought had been going pretty well. On Wednesday of the second week, we made a major step in one of the proposals that we made to them. We actually, by that point, had taken 44% of our economic asks off the table, unilaterally. And the response from the companies was not the commensurate step. The response from the companies was actually two huge rollbacks and a lot of ‘Nos’ in a lot of areas – a proposal that they knew we couldn’t come close to accepting. We then said that we don’t have a response to your proposals – we’re holding to our proposal until you bring us something that is actually real. And their response was to say, ‘Don’t come back tomorrow.’ And we actually have a voicemail from someone on the AMPTP that can demonstrate this fact – that we were told not to come back the next day. And in fact, just to make a point of it, the catering for our room was cancelled for the next day.”
“Before they told us,” Johannessen laughed.
“Before they told us,” Keyser said, adding jokingly: “That’s really where we drew the line. You can insult us, but don’t cut off the catering.”
“No chicken tomorrow?” Johannessen laughed. “We were outraged.”
“And that’s really the first proposal on the table for us when we come back,” Keyser said, continuing the gag – “that the catering has to start up again.”
“Can I insert a thought here?” Johannessen said on a serious note. “It’s good to clear all this up, but I just want people to understand that this by no means has been the kind of tone of the negotiations over these two weeks. I thought that they were very productive. Cordial is maybe not quite the word, but polite certainly was. A lot of us are sitting across the table for the third or fourth time or whatever times, and there’s a lot of respect in the room. So it wasn’t — there was no petulance, there was no anything like that. That hasn’t been the tone, and I assume it will continue to not be the tone. There’s not a battle of personalities, somehow. There’s absolutely nothing like that. That’s the good news, but it’s also the bad news, which is to say that the impasse that we have here is bona fide. We really have a very serious difference in opinion about what writers are worth.”
“I think that for people who are outside and watching this there’s probably some frustration when they listen to the two sides saying, ‘You walked out,’ ‘No, you walked out,’” Keyser said. “A member could rightly say, ‘Look, my livelihood is at stake here. I’m not going to be interested in you guys squabbling about who walked when.’ So I just want to talk a little bit about the way this works so that people can understand why some of these things actually matter.”
The talks got started, Keyser said, with both sides coming to the bargaining table with a set of proposals – and expectations. On management’s side, the expectation was that a deal would be worked out along the lines of the agreement reached with the Directors Guild last December.
“You know,” Keyser said, “we come in at the beginning of the two weeks and each of us – the companies and the guilds – they have a set of proposals to make about the negotiations. And they’re pretty long, each of them. We had close to 30 and they had more than 30. For us they include, the big, big things like short season proposals and script parity and residuals and family leave and all of that stuff. For them, they have a lot of housekeeping things. They also have a lot of stuff that they negotiated with the DGA – a lot of which is fine, a lot of which is actually not fine; some of which was okay for the DGA but is not okay for us.”
Keyser then gave a blow-by-blow description of how the first round of talks came to a sudden end. “The truth is that what needs to happen here is that we each get close to what our bottom lines are – what things we need to make this deal. And in doing that, we take things off the table, back and forth. The first week or so of the negotiations was a good conversation where we identified – and I say we, that means David Young, who’s our chief negotiator, and Carol Lombardini, who’s the companies’ chief negotiator – we identified, through signaling, which things matter to us in the long run – what we’re gonna need to make a deal. And then the sides begin to take things off the table. That’s a necessary part of the process. We did that on Wednesday. We removed a bunch of things, and we expected in turn that they would do the same thing so that in a kind of even-handed way we’d begin to reach that point where we could wrap negotiations up. Instead, they made a tactical move, which they’re allowed to do, in which they put stuff back on the table. They put stuff back on the table which they had taken off before. They added a rollback of health care, at the same time as not putting a single penny on the table for writers’ economic demands. It was necessary, for us, at that point, to say, ‘Okay, the step after that can’t be for us to take more off the table. If we’re the only side taking things off the table, we’re giving everything up. It has to be a kind of mutual – unfortunately, a kind of mutual game. Although it’s not really a game. But it’s got set rule. And when they didn’t do that, the right response for us was to say, ‘It’s your turn. You gotta do something.’ They decided – they sent a signal that said, ‘We don’t need to deal by the end of these two weeks. We’re willing to stretch longer and see if we can put some pressure on you to get closer and closer to your bottom line.’ And what we’re saying to them is that they don’t have that amount of pressure to put on us because we have writer power behind us where we say are certain things that we’re going to expect out of the negotiations. So that’s what’s going on. It is not a kind of, you know, standing on principle and formality and saying, ‘No, it’s your turn next.’ It’s a very deliberate attempt on David Young’s part to make sure that this negotiation proceeds toward a reasonable bottom-line for the guild.”
Guild negotiators then informed management’s AMPTP that they were going to seek a strike authorization from their members, and the AMPTP cancelled the next day’s catering and told the guild not to bother coming back until they were ready to resume bargaining.
In seeking strike authorization, Ray said: “When we say, for an example, in an email to the membership, that they did not address our economic proposals, we’re not saying that they didn’t do a good job of addressing our economic proposals – we’re saying they didn’t do anything at all. They literally came in and said, ‘We’re not going to address your economic proposals.’ So there really wasn’t a deal on the table. There was nothing, and then at the last moment, there was less than nothing because they introduced all these health rollbacks.”
“I think that was the thing that was so shocking to me,” Johannessen said, “is that the tone of the first week, I actually would say it was cordial and I thought it was extremely productive and I thought it was very candid. Both sides were talking about things that mattered to them and kind of educating the other side.”
“Yeah,” Erikson agreed, “we had great conversations, where I felt like we really learned a lot about the others’ perspective.”
“When push comes to shove,” Keyser said, “although none of us want a strike, the single piece of leverage that we have, the biggest piece of leverage that’s gotten us everything up to this point in our guild – our pension and health and our residuals and our jurisdiction over new media – is either the threat of or the actual practice of a strike. So it is the leverage we have.”
“It was not a surprise to the AMPTP when they put a deal on the table that they knew was unacceptable to us that our next piece of business would be to start the strike authorization vote happening,” Johannessen said.
WGA negotiating committee co-chairs Keyser, Johannessen and Ray sent this message to the guild’s members today:
Dear Fellow Members,
Today your Negotiating Committee is returning to the bargaining table with the AMPTP. Our goal remains to get a fair contract for writers.
You probably won’t hear from us during the days to come. We will communicate with you directly if there is a significant development, or we will see you at the member meetings scheduled April 18 and 19.
In the meantime, we wanted to let you know how much we appreciate the support you have given the Negotiating Committee. It means a lot to us. We are resolved and hopeful that with your support we can achieve a fair deal.