Since its formation, the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) has fought to improve the lives of professional writers. Like other unions, WGAW and its sister guild, Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), bargain with employers for contracts that protect writers, improve pay and benefits, and ensure creative rights. As our union prepares to renegotiate our contract, it is important for members to be informed, engaged and involved in the process that decides the future for thousands of writers.

Every three years, the Guild 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 gives WGA members a general overview of the negotiations process and what to expect in 2020.

Can’t find the answers you need below? Talk to your captain or email MBA 2020. If you don’t have a captain and would like to join a member team, please email Captains.

1. What are the steps in the negotiations process?

The Guild’s research, enforcement, and negotiating staff work continually to analyze industry trends and craft strategies to improve standards for writers. Preparations for MBA negotiations intensifies in the months prior to contract expiration date. Due to the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WGA and the AMPTP have agreed to extend the 2017 WGA Minimum Basic Agreement expiration date from May 1 to June 30, 2020. Read the March 24 2020 Update on MBA Negotiations.

In general, the steps in the negotiations process are as follows:

  • The WGAW Board and WGAE Council appoint the 17-member Negotiating Committee. The officers from each guild and a number of alternates also participate in committee discussions.
  • WGA members are surveyed to help determine bargaining priorities.
  • 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 presented to the membership for a vote.
  • The Negotiating Committee decides on a set of bargaining proposals and negotiating priorities.
  • The WGA holds a series of membership meetings to get feedback on the bargaining agenda. The Negotiating Committee and Chief Negotiator begin talks with the AMPTP. Given the sensitive nature of these conversations, communications with the membership may be limited at times.
  • If it appears an 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 Board and Council agree with the Committee, they will authorize a membership vote. Additional membership meetings will take place in connection with the vote. If a majority of members vote in favor, the elected leadership—the WGAW Board and WGAE Council, in consultation with the Negotiating Committee—have the authority to call a strike at the right strategic moment, if it becomes necessary.
  • 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.

2. Who does the Guild negotiate with?

The majority of companies signed on to the MBA are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The AMPTP negotiates on behalf of hundreds of production companies with seven different unions that represent workers in the motion picture and television industry.

3. Who represents the Guild at the negotiation table?

The 2020 MBA Negotiating Committee and chief negotiator represent the WGA in negotiations.

Members of the Negotiating Committee:

Michele Mulroney, Co-Chair
Shawn Ryan, Co-Chair
Betsy Thomas, Co-Chair

Liz Alper
Arash Amel
John August
Amy Berg
Ashley Nicole Black
Adam Brooks
Francesca Butler
Patti Carr
Robb Chavis
Meg DeLoatch
Travis Donnelly
Kate Erickson
Dante W. Harper
Eric Heisserer
Melissa London Hilfers

Elliott Kalan
Chris Keyser
Adele Lim
Peter Murrieta
Luvh Rakhe
Dailyn Rodriguez
Erica Saleh
Sara Schaefer
David Slack
Lauren Ashley Smith
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone

David A. Goodman, Ex-Officio
Marjorie David, Ex-Officio
Beau Willimon, Ex-Officio
Kathy McGee, Ex-Officio
Bob Schneider, Ex-Officio

WGAW Executive Director David Young serves as chief negotiator.

4. What happens in negotiations?

Negotiations start with opening proposals from both sides. The AMPTP may propose rollbacks, changes or new proposals that are not favorable to Guild members. The back-and-forth of the negotiations covers topics large and small in a series of sessions that play out over a number of weeks. The Negotiating Committee spends a great deal of time in caucuses away from the bargaining table, some spent deliberating about next moves, and other waiting for the AMPTP to be ready to resume a new session. Both sides may amend their proposals, offer counter proposals and compromise until a deal is reached. Due to the limitations imposed by COVID-19, the WGA Negotiating Committee will be meeting with the AMPTP via video conference.

5. What happens if we 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 our unity and resolve, writers picket and engage in other actions that put pressure on the AMPTP to better their offer. Negotiations can continue during a strike.

A strike can give us the leverage needed to secure meaningful economic gains for writers. It can also be financially challenging for members. In the event of a strike, a strike fund committee will oversee the Guild’s $18 million strike fund for members facing hardships due to the action. Members facing financial hardship may also be eligible for assistance through the Good and Welfare Emergency Assistance Fund. More specific information will be posted in the event of a work action.

6. How can I stay informed during negotiations?

During negotiations, the parties sometimes agree to a “media blackout,”’ in which both sides agree not to discuss specifics about how negotiations are proceeding with the media. Since member messages leak to the press, the Guild may pause member communications at times. Members will always be notified, however, when there are significant developments.

To stay better informed, we encourage you to join a member team with a Guild captain. Your captain can help address your questions and concerns and let you know about opportunities to engage with fellow Guild members. You can join a team here. When you reach out, please let us know if you primarily work in television or screen so we can place you on a team that is right for you.

Want to get more involved in support of the Guild’s bargaining agenda? You can volunteer to be a Captain here. Captains represent a team of writers by communicating members’ questions and concerns to Guild leadership and staff and helping to mobilize members in support of the campaign.

You can also email questions to MBA 2020 or visit the main negotiations webpage for information about the negotiations process, bargaining topics, and campaign developments.

7. How can I make suggestions or express my concerns to the Negotiating Committee?

Input from Guild members is always welcome. Please attend membership meetings, if possible, to hear directly from the Negotiating Committee, have the opportunity to give feedback, and hear what other members are thinking. Outside of meetings, you can direct comments and questions about negotiations to Guild leadership and staff.

8. What kinds of tactics might we expect from the companies?

Misleading and provocative information may appear in the press or on social media. You might hear attacks on the Guild and its leadership. These tactics are often used to scare, confuse and weaken member solidarity.

Take rumors and unsubstantiated claims with a grain of salt. Make sure to consider the source and motivations of comments about WGA goals, strategies, tactics and priorities. It is wise to avoid talking about negotiations with company representatives during negotiations. Though you may have close creative and social relationships with studio executives, be aware of information gathering that could take the form of friendly, seemingly well-intentioned conversations.