On the union’s first day after its historic 148-day strike, the Writers Guild of America held a “rock concert” — as one showgoer described it — Wednesday night at the Hollywood Palladium as the union celebrated its leadership and solidarity while outlining the plan. The deal points in its initial minimum basic agreement for membership.
The meeting opened with minutes of applause for the negotiating committee, followed by a video clip containing scenes and interviews from the picket lines and from various marches that took place throughout the 148 days of work stoppage.
WGA West President Meredith Stemm opened the meeting with the “official” announcement that the union had reached a new three-year tentative basic agreement after what was the union’s second-longest strike in its history. Her remarks were met with one standing ovation after another as she recognized every member of the WGA leadership, Board of Directors and Negotiating Committee as well as recently elected officials. The biggest applause of the night, however, was reserved for Elaine Stutzman, the union’s chief negotiator who replaced David Young after he went on medical leave in February — with nearly a thousand union members filling the palladium along the way. To its beams, chanting its name.
Stutzman went on to point out that when top studio brass Bob Iger, David Zaslav, Donna Langley and Ted Sarandos joined what turned out to be a major stretch of negotiations last week, the meeting was held in a WGA conference room rather than at AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks headquarters.
“Ellen is very impressive. Even more so than she was in April. You really feel like this has turned her into a real, very impressive leader,” said one source in attendance.
“The Writers Guild is kind of a miracle,” Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, told members Wednesday, singling out solidarity among the grassroots and reiterating that it was the AMPTP that “chose” this. The strike, not the union.
“Once the four CEOs finally took control, the deal was completed in basically three days,” he said, pointing to the $5 billion in losses to California’s economy as an example of how ineffective the group that represents Hollywood studios and streaming companies is. “We still have work to do. We have to enforce it… We remind members to come to the union if they are being pressured to give up their rights, and we have to educate writers and showrunners about the rules… And we want agents to play their part. No more ‘this is the deal’ “Just take it.” …We have to take care of each other, even after the picket signs are removed.”
Kiser, who is best known for his motivational speeches to the union, also gave a shoutout to Drew Carey and everyone who helped support the WGA during the strike. Carey became a favored union member after footing the members’ bill at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank and Swingers on Los Angeles’ west side for the duration of the WGA strike. for him Unpaid invoice At Bob’s it hit $250,000 in the first two months of the strike alone. Carey, who was not in attendance, also received a standing ovation from the assembled members as did “Fake Carol” Lombardini, the social media account that serves as a parody of the AMPTP president. (The identity behind the viral account remains a mystery.)
Stutzman then reviewed the points of the MBA deal, including what the Giants started with in May and what the union ended up doing roughly five months later. Another exhibitor who attended the event – which was closed to the press – said the agreement was very well received.
The WGA West Board of Directors, WGA East Board and Negotiating Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend the agreement. The tentative agreement now goes to WGA members for ratification. Voting will take place from October 2 to 9.
Another source at the meeting said: “The contract will definitely be ratified.” “And by a large margin.”
Before concluding with questions, bargaining committee co-chair David Goodman thanked union coordinators and strike leaders as well as members who regularly walked the picket lines. “All those stories about a big agent pushing us back or a certain person pushing us back to the negotiating table? No, it was everyone in this room who did it,” one observer recounted Goodman’s comments.
The Q&A segment concluded tonight with members inquiring about ways they can support SAG-AFTRA as the performers union has now marked 60-odd days since its strike against the AMPTP, and negotiations are now set to resume next week. Union leaders encouraged members to get involved with SAG-AFTRA and said there would be other opportunities to support various unions including the UAW.
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