Michael Winship, running unopposed, has been elected president of the WGA East, the guild said Tuesday, but his running mates for seats on the guild’s council took a drubbing. Seven candidates on the opposition’s Solidarity slate were elected to the council, compared to only four on Winship’s Inclusion & Experience slate.
Winship, an award-winning news and documentary writer, led the guild during the tumultuous 2007-08 writers strike, serving as president for five consecutive two-year terms – starting just before the strike and ending in 2017. His running mates this time were Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, who was elected vice president, and Chris Kyle, who was elected secretary-treasurer. They too ran unopposed.
Their slate, however, came out on the losing end of what amounted to a referendum on the future of the guild. They supported a pause in the guild’s five-year-long campaign to organize digital newsrooms, arguing that so many digital journalists were joining that film and TV writers were in danger of becoming a minority. They even called it “an existential threat to the guild” that could lead to it “collapsing,” and floated the idea of spinning off the digital members into a separate union.
The top three vote-getters in the council races — Josh Gondelman, Sasha Stewart and Liz Hynes — were all members of the Solidarity slate that argued that “it’s important that we continue to organize the entire industry.” Their other winning candidates include Benjamin Rosenblum, Kim Kelly, Sara David and Hamilton Nolan.
Responding to the question: Why don’t digital journalists join some other union,” the Solidarity candidates said on that platform that “The WGAE in 2015 made the decision to get into organizing this space because they saw it was non union and that all our industries are ultimately connected. WGAE approached Gawker to unionize and that’s how it all got started. Now that we have a lot of media people in our union already, it’s important that we continue to organize the ENTIRE industry. The more of the industry we get in our union, the stronger our union is for all of our members in that industry. All of our members benefit from us organizing the media industry as much as possible. We would love to one day have a pension and a health plan too—but we can’t get that until we first achieve union density in the industry.”
David Simon, an incumbent and creator of The Wire and The Plot Against America, was reelected to the council on the Inclusion & Experience slate, but finished seventh in the balloting. His winning slate mates were Lauren Ashley Smith, Tracey Scott Wilson and Tian Jun Gu.
In a statement, Winship said: “Congratulations to all of tonight’s candidates and our thanks to everyone who ran in this year’s election. This was perhaps the most difficult and hard fought campaign in the Guild East’s history but we can now put that past us and come together as a Guild and as a council committing ourselves to finding solutions that will be in the best interests of all of our members. Thanks to all who voted for our slate. Your support was essential and we’re grateful.”
Winship succeeds previous WGAE president Beau Willimon, who did not seek re-election after four years in office.
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