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WGA East president Michael Winship (Getty Images)
After Contentious WGA East Election, What’s Next for the Newsroom Organizing Debate?
The new guild council and leadership must reach an agreement on how to handle the growing numbers of digital media members
While this week’s WGA East council election saw victories for supporters of the guild’s continued organizing of digital newsrooms, the discussions on what path the guild will take are just getting started.
Guild insiders tell TheWrap that in the coming weeks, a subcommittee created to review options for a possible restructuring of guild membership will present the council with recommendations ahead of the next council meeting in early October. Meetings will also be held to allow members to share their thoughts before the council votes on a course of action.
On Tuesday, all seven candidates running on the digital-writer-focused Solidarity Slate were elected to the WGAE council. Solidarity Slate, representing the thousands of writers from 26 digital media companies who have joined the guild since 2015, strongly opposes a proposal to spin off the new unions into a separate guild, and believes that continued newsroom organizing will only increase the guild’s voice in labor.
While the election wins have given Solidarity Slate a larger voice on the council, where it now holds roughly half of the council’s 21 seats, the guild’s top leadership is led by the opposing Inclusion & Experience slate featuring incoming president Michael Winship, vice president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen and secretary-treasurer Christopher Kyle unopposed.
Winship & Co. believe restructuring the guild’s membership is necessary since film and TV writers are on course to become a minority in a guild that historically has centered on such writers. They also are looking to change the guild’s bylaws so that only film and TV writers play a role in bargaining agreements with studios, just as contracts with digital news outlets are currently negotiated and voted on solely by their writers.
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The council elections spilled into social media with emotions running high and pleas from digital news writers to continue organizing. Both slates worked hard to drive turnout, which was seen with the percentage of overall WGAE members casting ballots rising from 12% last year to 30% this year.
Despite the tensions, both slates expressed optimism that they will be able to come together as a union and find a compromise. Solidarity council member Hamilton Nolan told TheWrap that he also feels optimistic that the election results will give his side more leverage to at least keep the digital news unions under the umbrella of WGAE and not be spun off into a separate union, as some have proposed. “With the new people [on the council] I expect we will be able to work together,” said Nolan. “The election shows that there is a mandate from members to continue the organizing that we have done successfully for years now.”
In a statement, Winship congratulated the winners of the council elections and thanked the Inclusion & Experience supporters, expressing hope that the union will be able to move past the heated debates of the election campaign. “This was perhaps the most difficult and hard-fought campaign in the Guild East’s history,” he said, “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.”