Frequently Asked Questions
Every three years, the WGA negotiates with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over the terms of the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA), the collective bargaining agreement that covers most of the work done by WGA writers. Though each negotiation cycle is different, certain aspects of the process carry over from year to year.
This FAQ provides a general overview of the negotiations process and what to expect in 2023.
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What are the steps in the negotiations process?
The WGA’s research, enforcement, and negotiating staff work continually to analyze industry trends and craft strategies to improve standards for writers. Members also express their concerns and identify priorities through communication with the WGAW Board or WGAE Council, their captains, in member committees and organizing meetings, tv/streaming show visits, and by participating in member surveys. Preparations for MBA negotiations intensifies in the months prior to the contract expiration date, which this cycle is May 1, 2023.
In general, the steps in the negotiations process are as follows:
- WGA members are surveyed to help determine bargaining priorities.
- The WGAW Board and WGAE Council appoint the Negotiating Committee. The officers from each guild are ex-officio members of the committee.
- The Negotiating Committee, with staff support, crafts the Pattern of Demands—general objectives for negotiations. The Pattern of the Demands is approved by the Board and Council and sent to the membership for a vote.
- The Negotiating Committee decides on a set of specific bargaining proposals and negotiating priorities.
- The WGA holds a series of membership meetings to get feedback on the bargaining agenda.
- The Negotiating Committee begins talks with the AMPTP. Given the sensitive nature of these bargaining sessions, communications with the membership may be limited at times.
- If it appears an acceptable agreement can’t be reached, the Negotiating Committee may recommend to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council that the membership takes a Strike Authorization Vote (SAV). If the WGAW Board and WGAE Council agree with the Negotiating Committee, they will authorize a membership vote. Additional membership meetings may take place in connection with the vote. If a majority of members vote in favor, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council, in consultation with the Negotiating Committee have the authority to call a strike after the contract expires, and there is no acceptable agreement.
- Once the WGA and AMPTP come to an agreement on terms, the WGAW Board and WGAE Council decide whether to recommend the tentative agreement and send it to the membership for a Contract Ratification Vote.
Who does the WGA negotiate with?
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) negotiates on behalf of all the major studios and hundreds of production companies.
Who represents the WGA at the negotiation table?
The 2023 MBA Negotiating Committee and chief negotiator, WGAW Assistant Executive Director Ellen Stutzman, represent the WGA in negotiations.
Members of the 2023 Negotiating Committee are:
David A. Goodman, Co-Chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Patric M. Verrone
Meredith Stiehm, WGAW President, Ex-Officio
Michele Mulroney, WGAW Vice President, Ex-Officio
Betsy Thomas, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, Ex-Officio,
Michael Winship, WGAE President, Ex-Officio
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, WGAE Vice President of Film/TV/Streaming, Ex-Officio
Christopher Kyle, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, Ex-Officio
What happens in negotiations?
Negotiations start with opening proposals from both sides. The WGA prepares a comprehensive proposal to address the concerns of writers and over the course of negotiations explains and defends specific proposals. The AMPTP usually proposes rollbacks, changes, or new proposals that are not favorable to writers. The back-and-forth of the negotiations covers a range of topics in a series of sessions that play out over a number of weeks. The Negotiating Committee also spends time away from the bargaining table, in caucuses discussing and deliberating next moves, or waiting for the AMPTP to respond to presentations and proposals. Both sides may amend their proposals, offer counter proposals, or drop proposals until a tentative agreement is reached or negotiations break off.
What happens if writers go on strike?
The WGA leadership may call a strike only after the membership has authorized it and the current contract has expired. If a strike is called, members are prohibited from performing covered writing services for companies that don’t have an agreement with the WGA. To demonstrate unity and resolve, writers picket and engage in other collective actions that help put pressure on the AMPTP to better their offer. Negotiations can continue during a strike.
By striking and withholding their labor, writers use their leverage to secure meaningful economic gains for all union members. A strike can also be financially challenging for individual writers. In the event of a strike, a strike fund committee will oversee the WGAW’s strike fund for members facing economic hardships due to the action. Members may also be eligible for assistance through the Good and Welfare Emergency Assistance Fund. More specific information will be available in the event of a strike.
How can members stay informed during negotiations?
First and foremost, we encourage you to attend member meetings and hear directly from your leadership. The WGA will also communicate important info to members via email and on our (forthcoming) WGA Contract 2023 website.
If you don’t already have a WGA Contract Captain we highly encourage you join a team. Your captain can help you stay informed and let you know about opportunities to engage with fellow members.
If you want to get more involved you can also volunteer to be a Contract Captain. You will engage with a team of fellow writers, help address their questions, and mobilize them in support of the bargaining agenda. Captains also meet to discuss the issues and communicate member sentiments to leadership. Captains receive leadership training and staff support.
During negotiations, the parties sometimes agree to a “media blackout,”’ in which both sides agree not to discuss specifics about how negotiations are proceeding. Since member messages leak to the press, the WGA may pause member communications at times. Members will always be notified, however, when there are significant developments.
You can also email questions to MBA 2023.
How can members make suggestions or express concerns to the Negotiating Committee?
Input from WGA members is always welcome and highly regarded. You can provide feedback by attending membership meetings, or communicating with your Contract Captain or Member Organizing Representative. You can also contact WGA leadership and staff by emailing MBA 2023.
What else should members expect?
Already, misleading and provocative information has appeared in the press and on social media. Months before writers have collectively determined their bargaining agenda, there have been strike predictions in the trades and you may have heard rumors from executives, managers, agents, and fellow writers. These narratives—so pervasive that they’ve become industry conventional wisdom—seek to portray the WGA leadership as determined to strike regardless of how negotiations transpire. By painting the WGA as unreasonable, writers’ proposals can be dismissed as unreasonable, too.
Take rumors and “insider” commentary with a grain of salt. Consider the source and motivations of comments about WGA goals, strategies, tactics, and priorities. (Often, these comments are not sourced at all!) Even well-meaning fellow members can be misinformed about the contract negotiations process. The only true authority on the status of MBA negotiations is the WGA, as represented by designated member-leaders, your Captains, and staff.
WGA contract negotiations are conducted through a democratic process, supported by thorough analysis of the industry and experienced campaign strategists. The membership decides what issues are brought to the table and whether or not to authorize a strike. Expect to hear debate among your fellow members—a fundamental aspect of any democracy—but don’t assume it’s a sign of discord. Recent experience has shown that WGA members are aligned on core issues and will take action when the stakes are clear. In 2017, the last time writers took a Strike Authorization Vote, 96.3% voted in favor, creating the leverage negotiators needed to secure increases to the health fund and other gains. Throughout the history of the WGA, writers have proven that they can win new industry standards through collective action.
What is the 2023 Pattern of Demands?
The Pattern of Demands is a constitutionally-required step in the bargaining process. While the Pattern does not detail specific proposals that will be made during negotiations, it is designed to inform the memberships of our two Guilds of general objectives that will be pursued. The 2023 Pattern of Demands was unanimously recommended by our Negotiating Committee, and by the governing bodies of both Guilds: the WGA West's Board of Directors and the WGA East's Council. The Pattern of Demands was approved by the WGAW and WGAE memberships on March 7, 2023 by WGA members with 98.4% (5,553) voting yes, and 1.6% (90) voting no.
What are the eligibility rules for joint WGAW-WGAE votes concerning negotiation of the MBA?
Under both the WGAW and WGAE Constitutions, votes concerning negotiation of the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) are conducted jointly. In order to be eligible to vote in the 2023 joint MBA votes, WGAE and WGAW members must be Current Active (i.e., not In-Arrears) and have either: (1) MBA earnings of at least $37,953.51 (excluding residuals) during the past six years; or (2) 15 pension-eligible years (i.e. earned at least $5,000) based on MBA employment. Dues department staff is available to assist current members who have questions about their eligibility status and can be reached at the WGAW at (323) 782-4531 or WGAW Dues or WGAE Dues Administrator Debbie DiOrio at (212) 767-7824 or Debbie DiOrio.