Michael Winship, President of WGAE, Talks About Frustration and Hope as the Strike Moves into 2008

Michael Winship, president of Writers Guild of America East, sent this message to East members today.

Fellow Members of the Writers Guild of America, East:

A very Happy New Year to you all. In spite of our current turmoil, I hope you’ve been able to find some time to enjoy and appreciate the holiday season with friends and loved ones.

I hit the wall the Friday before Christmas, momentarily overcome by frustration and annoyance. I think many, if not most of us, have done the same at various points during this strike.

What sustains me, and I hope you as well, is our nationwide unity and the surety that what we are striking for is right not only for us but so many others in the creative community – and that the fair and respectful contract we seek will serve as the template for many generations to come.

With the start of 2008 and the continuation of our strike come many new challenges and dilemmas. As you know, last week we reached a binding independent agreement with Worldwide Pants that will allow Late Show with David Letterman and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson to return to the air on January 2 with their full writing staffs. Worldwide Pants accepted the very same proposals, including new media, that the Guilds were prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7. As we said Friday, it demonstrates our eagerness to put people back to work, and that when a company comes to the table prepared to negotiate seriously, a fair and reasonable deal can be quickly reached.

Other late night shows – The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel Live in Los Angeles, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien here in New York – also are returning Wednesday night, but without their striking writers. Leno, O’Brien and Kimmel are all members of the Guild and have been and continue to be extremely supportive of our strike and their writing staffs. For that we truly are grateful

Nonetheless, they are coming back without writers and without a new Guild contract, forced back on the air by companies that refuse to sit at the table and bargain with us. We cannot let that pass.

It’s a difficult and painful decision, but the Guilds East and West have determined that we will picket outside the studios of these programs, beginning January 2. We know that some believe this to be unfair and will be unhappy, but we are taking into consideration our overall strategy and the needs of all 10,500 of our members currently on strike.

Our picket will not be of the hosts themselves but the companies for which their shows are produced. Our purpose is to continue awareness of our strike and the media conglomerates against which we strike, and to encourage performers, politicians and others to honor our picket line and not appear as guests on these struck programs.
Nothing at all personal or defamatory is intended and we will take all measures to make sure the public and press are aware of our motives and issues.

If the companies want these shows to be back on the air with the writers whose creativity and talent make them so successful, the answer is simple. Bargain in good faith, negotiate, make a deal.

Thanks for your attention.

In Solidarity,
Michael Winship
Writers Guild of America, East


Anonymous said...

I feel that this is a very sound idea. It is a great way to get the message out there to the people who will be attending the tapings of Leno, and the other shows that will be returning to the air without a contract in place, and hopefully a way for the viewers at home to see what's going on, provided that the picketers get air time.

At any rate, good luck to the writers. As a fan of the content you bring to the air, I full support you! All of my friends, family and co-workers are fully behind you. We all pray that this can come to a quick resolution, especially with the writers getting what they rightfully deserve!

intrigued said...

Well, I guess the writers that have posted here that said they don;t like the fact the Letterman writers were going back to work WERE NOT PAID SHILLS AFTERALL.

BTL Guy said...

Winship says:

Worldwide Pants accepted the very same proposals, including new media, that the Guilds were prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7.

Why hide behind "we were prepared to present" the offer when you can just as easily...

...actually present the offer!?

Saying you want to negotiate and actually doing something about it are two different things.

Present the offer. Put the ball back in their court.

JimBob said...

Someone explain to me why we're being so deferential to guys like Leno. He's a very wealthy entertainer (and, if I'm not mistaken, a WGA member himself) who has acceded to his employers' demand that he go back to work. That is scabbing, any way you slice it, no? He's in a much better position to weather a strike than most of us, so why are we being so careful not to offend him? Sell a few cars, Jay, and hang in there with us, why don't ya?

Megan said...

Though I am not a writer myself, I have supported you guys from day one. Every day I expect to hear on the news that the AMPTP has finally decided to be reasonable and give the writers the compensation they rightfully deserve, and every day this does not happen I am flabbergasted. It is unfortunate that the strike has not been fully and fairly covered by the media, and many people misunderstand what is going on, but know that there are many of us who stand strong behind you and don't want you to give up.

It is possible for non-guild members to strike with you? I would love to get a few people together, catch a bus to New York, and join you guys.

intrigued said...


the reason the WGA can't present the same offer to the AMPTP that they agreed to with WWP is because it doesn't address the jurisdictional issues. The WGA is not yet willing to let go of the jurisdictional issues. Remember in the AMPTP's ultimatum they said the WGA had to give all that up, the WGA a) doesnt want to look soft by giving it up and b) they still believe they can use it as a bargaining chip.

Charlie said...

Reality TV and Animation. Let it go guys. Mark my words, the AMPTP will NEVER come back to the table until you do. They will scorch the earth and everything in its path and everything that comes behind it (including the house they built and the foundation it stands on) before they negotiate with those two items on the table. No compromise on those two items, non-negotiable.

bluestocking said...

Intrigued said:

"Well, I guess the writers that have posted here that said they don;t like the fact the Letterman writers were going back to work WERE NOT PAID SHILLS AFTERALL."

Based on what new information? I just read this post twice and can't find it. Granted, when I was kid I was always asking my Mom where my socks were, and she'd give me the time-honored Mom reply, "If they were a snake they'd've bit you."

Bill said...

"The WGA is not yet willing to let go of the jurisdictional issues"

These issues should never have been included in the first place. If the WGA wanted to organize them they should have organized them by employee vote as all other unions do. Demanding jusidiction as part of a contract will never work.

Also included in the "six points" was a sympathy strike clause allowing the WAG to strike in sympathy to other unions and guilds (sag). Even the Teamsters have never been able to pull that one off - we have a "no strike no lockout" cluse like every other union. Does the WGA think that they can re-write labor law too.

They AMPTP was wrong to walk out, but the WGA negotiators showed them to the door with these demands.

Drop them and present your plan already!

BTL 399
Cry shill or delete me - I don' care anymore.


bluestocking said...

Megan, non-writers are welcome on the picket lines. You can call the WGAe for more information.

Rodney Vaccaro said...

I am tired of this talk of the reality and animation writers being a bargaining chip. These are not bargaining chips, they are people and they are our fellow writers. How can we decide to abandon some of our brothers and sisters? We don't have to give up anything. We finally hold all the cards.

Has anyone else noticed that, in all industry awards, we're the only above-the-line category that is identified by the film and not the individual? There is no Best Screenwriter category. The award is not given to the writer who created it, but to the film. This is an insult. This is the kind of thing that sounds insignificant, but contributes to our getting walked on.

Keep this in mind...60% of our membership is unemployed. Of the 40% that is employed at any given time, only about 10% makes anything more than a living. And if the AMPTP gets their deal, there’s no reason for that 30% to come back in. We won’t even be able to make what we make now. That’s 90% of our membership who have no reason to vote for a deal that doesn’t give us everything we want...and we can get everything we want.

As our Teamster brothers are fond of saying...You don’t ask for what is yours...you take it!

BTL Guy said...


What I am arguing for is not that the WGA present a plan which unilaterally drops the "6 points."

I'm saying the Guild should present the plan which has been signed by WWP; the plan which they "were ready to present to the AMPTP when they walked out on Dec. 7."

I'm saying ignore the 6 Points, or address them however you want to; but present the plan!

If it's still got the jurisdictional language, so be it.


It's like going to buy a car. I might say to the dealer, "look, I'm gonna walk outta here if you don't remove that undercarriage undercoat thing."

Now maybe the dealership has a policy that every damned car has to have that undercarriage undercoat thing. Does the salesman just stare vacantly at me and watch me go?


The salesman presents a new, different offer that addresses the undercarriage undercoat thing. He might say, "Look I gotta have that undercarriage undercoat thing in there. It's just something the manufacturer makes us do, and the boss likes it. But what if we knock $750 off the price of the car to offset it?"

Then I say "And throw in the floor mats for free?"

And he says "Damnit, you drive one hard deal, you son of a gun BTL Guy!" And he stares out me with those Clint Eastwood squinty eyes and finally exhales "Sure. You gotta deal."

See? Simple. :)

JimBob said...

Guy, if you really think what's going on in this strike is as simple as that standard buying-a-car dance routine, you're a lost cause.
The guys on the floor always think the bosses are idiots, that they could do the job better. Except they can't, but ignorance is bliss

BTL Guy said...


The car buying thing was a simple allegory with a wee bit of humor (or attempt thereof) thrown in for flavor. The "see, simple" remark was irony. Notice the smiley face.

No one actually thinks this deal is as simple as buying a honda.

Do try to keep up.

JimBob said...

Guy -- in other words, you're using this forum as a place to...well, write. Because you're not serious, you're just trying to be...entertaining? Sorry, pal, this is too serious a situation for that.
I am plenty "up," as in picketing and talking the real issues to anyone who will listen. You want to write jokes, do it somewhere else.

Jack said...

Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war