(Updated Feb. 24, 2023)
Embracing a spirit of unity and solidarity throughout the Guild, WGA has drawn the curtain on its 2023 contract campaign. Over the past three weeks, more than 3,000 WGA members have packed informational meetings in Los Angeles and New York to hear from the Guild’s Negotiating Committee and give their thoughts on the upcoming contract talks.
The process began on Saturday, February 4, as more than 300 WGA captains gathered at the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles to hear WGA leadership discuss some of the goals of the upcoming negotiations, to meet other captains, and to ask questions about the upcoming process.
The captains are a mixture of newcomers and veterans of past campaigns. During a pre-meeting mingling in the theater lobby, many of them remarked at the strong turnout and at how pleased they were to be together with their peers in-person for the first time in three years. Their primary goal: to soak up as much information as possible so they could be an information resource for members of their teams.
“I’m hoping to come away and be able to help other writers who are not captains understand what the talking points are going to be,” said Jackie Decembly who joined the WGA at the start of the pandemic and was attending her first in-person event with the Guild.
Theo Travers, who has been a captain on various shows for the past 10 years, declared that he was pleased at the number of members who signed up to be captains for the 2023 MBA cycle.
“To me, that’s encouraging and it means there’s going to be a lot of communication between the Negotiating Committee and other members of the Guild,” said Travers. “I stepped away a little bit when I became a showrunner for the first time last year, but I’m excited to be back. This is a really important topic and there are a few friends of mine who don’t have a team captain, so I volunteered to step back in.”
In thanking them for their willingness to step up on behalf of their union, Negotiating Committee Co-Chair and former WGAW President David A. Goodman said the 2023 captains will play an essential role, as their predecessors have done.
“Everything this union has accomplished has been because of the captains, because there were individuals who volunteered to be a conduit between their friends and colleagues in the union and the leadership and staff,” said Goodman, addressing the captains. “The individual commitment you all make to serve the union, to serve the other writers in the union is inspiring. It’s invaluable, and you are indispensable.”
Comedy/variety writer and WGAE member Sara Schaefer said that the event left her “super fired-up,” a feeling that she had also experienced while serving on the Guild’s Negotiating Committee in 2020.
“There was a lot of talk when the 2020 negotiations were over. It was like, ‘Next time there’s going to be more power to go for some of the things we’ve been needing for years now,’” said Schaefer. “So it’s been building, and I got emotional. When the leadership started giving the presentation, I got tears in my eyes. It was like ‘We’re here! It’s happening!’ It was just very inspiring.”
Samantha Herman, who works primarily writing TV movies, echoed Schaefer’s feeling that the Negotiating Committee’s presentation was “powerful and galvanizing.” Herman has already begun reaching out to her team, reminding them about the importance of attending upcoming member meetings.
“Working in the long-form TV space, we’re not really features and we’re not really TV. So I felt siloed because I was working independently all the time,” said Herman who joined the Guild in 2020 “I was happy to take this on to have the resources for other writers who were in the same boat.”
Having gone through the 2007 strike, showrunner Aaron Harberts remarked how refreshing it was to see so many young and diverse faces among the captains in 2023. He considers the WGA captains essential to boosting member morale as well as serving as sources of information.
“When I realized that there were not as many people who had been through 2007, it made me think it sort of falls to those of us who had been through 2007 to help prepare this younger generation and these newer members for some of the things to expect,” said Harberts.
Whether they were veterans of past contract campaigns or newcomers to the unions, the captains said they were glad to be present and to hear from both the negotiating team and their fellow members.
Thomas Higgins characterized acting as a captain as a vital part of being involved in one’s union. “Ever since a few years ago, when everybody got in a room and we all made a decision to let our representation go in the name of what we wanted, and then seeing that ultimately play out, made me want to be part of the next move we make,” Higgins said. “I guess you sort of grow up after something like that.”
Members, check your inbox for information about upcoming member meetings and contact us if you’re interested in learning more about the WGA captains program.