The WGA East has resumed its organizing of digital newsrooms after a pause amid concerns that news writers and producers were on the verge of becoming a majority of the guild’s membership.
That concern played out last summer in the guild’s officer and Council elections, with secretary-treasurer-elect Chris Kyle, running unopposed, warning that the influx of news writers and producers posed “an existential threat to the guild” that could lead to it “collapsing.”
Only a few years ago, the vast majority of the guild’s members were film and scripted television writers. But over the half-decade, an aggressive campaign to organize dozens of digital news outlets including Salon, Slate and HuffPost has changed the union’s demographics dramatically, with its news sectors — broadcast and digital — now approaching 50% of the total membership.
During last summer’s elections, which amounted to a referendum on the future of the guild, president-elect Michael Winship, also running unopposed, told Deadline that the organizing of digital media had “triggered a flow” of so many new members “that we needed to stop for a while – just pause for a while – and access where we are.”
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The guild’s opposition Solidarity slate, however, dominated the contested Council races, campaigning on the belief that “it’s important that we continue to organize the entire industry.”
The two factions now have come together, however, with the Council voting unanimously to resume organizing digital newsrooms. In a statement, the guild said: “As the media industry continues to unionize across sectors, the WGAE Council is deliberating how to address changes in the make-up of the Guild’s membership and how to ensure that the union can meet the needs of all members – in digital and broadcast news, podcasts, scripted and nonfiction television, feature films, and public broadcasting.”
A letter to the guild’s members, signed by every Council member, says:
“Ever since last summer’s contentious election, your elected representatives have been hard at work trying to find a path forward for our union, together. This has involved hundreds of hours of meetings and, more recently, a series of intense but productive sessions with an outside labor facilitator and labor lawyer.
“The makeup of our union has changed significantly over the past six years, but our constitution has not. Council is now working in good faith toward changes that will meet the needs of our membership now and into the future. Because we understand and support the need to organize new digital shops to build our union and enhance the bargaining power of digital members, we have voted unanimously to direct the Executive Director (Lowell Peterson) to resume organizing in digital media.
“Our next step is to talk to you, the membership, about the future of our union. This will take a variety of forms, including personal outreach, surveys and more. Please know that you are the Guild, and your opinion is vital. Thank you for your attention and support as we work together toward a solution that protects and unites us all.”
Based in New York City, the WGA East represents nearly 7,000 members working in film, television, broadcast and digital news and podcasts.
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