May 25, 2018 7:29 AM
2017 WGA MBA Ratification Company Logo

Statement from 2017 MBA Negotiating Committee Co-Chairs

Chip Johannessen, Chris Keyser and Billy Ray



We are pleased to recommend ratification of the 2017 Minimum Basic Agreement now before you.  We make this recommendation on behalf of the entire joint WGAW-WGAE Negotiating Committee, which unanimously supports ratification.
As almost all of you are aware, the 2017 MBA negotiations were not business as usual. The Guild came to the table with an ambitious agenda informed by member surveys and meetings with writers conducted on both coasts. This intensive outreach brought into sharp relief two core objectives of the 2017 negotiations:  to shore up the Guild’s Heath Fund, which was projected to run substantial deficits in the next two contract terms; and to address the declining economic position of writers in episodic television who, because of short seasons and production schedules untethered from the traditional broadcast calendar, found themselves working longer and earning less.
The AMPTP, for its part, approached these negotiations expecting the WGA to accept the “industry pattern.”  From the very outset, the Negotiating Committee made it clear that no pattern negotiated with another union would be sufficient to address writers’ issues. That bargaining stance was met with aggressive resistance and had to be backed by the power of a membership mobilized and willing to fight in support of the Guild’s demands. So for the first time in a decade, WGA members were asked to grant strike authorization.
The response was overwhelming: 96.3% of you voted to grant strike authorization, a sign not only of the resonance with writers of the Guild’s bargaining agenda, but of the confidence by Guild members that their leaders would use the authorization judiciously.  Armed with leverage you gave us, the Negotiating Committee bargained until deadline—the expiration of the contract on May 1—and achieved without a strike what we think is a fair deal and which we now submit to you for ratification.
What did we achieve?  We have given you in separate documents both a comprehensive summary of the contract settlement (here) and the actual contract language of the 2017 MBA (here).  These are the highlights:
  • Solvency of the Health Plan. The health plan contribution rate on reportable earnings will increase from 9.5% to 10.5% at the start of the 2017 agreement; to 11.0% in the second year; and to 11.5% in the third year. These increases will generate an additional $14.0 million in the first year of the contract, $21.0 million in the second year, and $30.0 million in the third year. The health plan will also receive additional funding from an increase in the contribution base for writers on overall deals under Article 14.E.2 from $250,000 to $275,000 per year for writers earning more than $250,000.  This contributes $850,000 during the contract and prevents the use of this provision to underpay benefit contributions on behalf of these writers.  At the same time, the Guild agreed to implement cost savings of $7 million per year (from about $150 million in spending per year), for $21 million total during the contract.

    Taken together, these changes will provide approximately $87 million to offset projected cost increases, achieving the goal of solvency for the health plan for the duration of this agreement, and for some time thereafter.  
  • Increased Compensation for Writers on Short Seasons. For the first time, the MBA will limit the “span” of work of certain writers employed on a per episode basis. Under this provision, writer-producers on TV staffs will have a cap of 2.4 weeks of work per episode. For example, ten episodic fees will pay for up to 24 weeks of work. Weeks in excess of that cap will be paid at the writer’s individual weekly rate, computed by dividing the episodic fee by 2.4. These limits will take effect May 2, 2018 and will apply to series with episode orders of 12 or fewer episodes on broadcast networks, and 14 or fewer episodes on cable and digital platforms. Additionally, these rules will apply only to writers guaranteed $350,000 or less in a year, excluding script fees.

  • Expansion of Limitations on Options & Exclusivity. In 2014, the Guild first negotiated protections against burdensome option and exclusivity requirements for television writers. The efficacy of those protections was undercut by the fact that they did not apply to writers earning more than $210,000 per year.  In this negotiation, the Guild raised the earnings threshold to $275,000 starting May 2, 2018 ($280,500 starting May 2, 2019) for most programs, and to $250,000 starting May 2, 2018 for writers working on children’s programs.

  • Increased Residuals for Made-For-Pay TV.  Residuals for made-for-pay television programs are increased 10% in the first year of the contract and 5% in the second year.  In addition, writers on made-for-pay television comedy-variety programs, who were excluded from fixed residuals under prior MBAs, will now receive them. 

  • Increased Residuals for Programs Made For High Budget Subscription Video on Demand (HBSVOD). Domestic use of made-for-HBSVOD programs now triggers a residual after 90 days, rather than after one year as under the previous MBA. The base for the residual will also be increased, resulting in a 50% increase in the residual for the largest SVOD service.  In addition, the contract establishes a new residual for affiliated SVOD use outside the US, such as the extensive use Netflix makes of most of its WGA-written original content. This residual starts at 35% of the domestic residual each year, and declines to 10% of the domestic residual by year 13 and for each year thereafter for the life of the program.

    Existing series and programs with license agreements that pre-date May 2, 2017 are grandfathered under the current provisions, even if the writing is done after May 2, 2017. If the company changes the deal terms of the license agreement, the 2017 HBSVOD terms apply. 
  • Parental Leave. In a first-ever provision in a WGA contract, writers on term contracts in episodic television will be entitled to up to eight weeks of unpaid job-protected parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a foster child.
The Guild was able to achieve these gains without agreeing to significant rollbacks. This does not mean that the deal contains no compromises.  We agreed to expand the companies’ ability to license out-of-production series to basic cable platforms or to “secondary” digital channels without paying fixed residuals. We also agreed to treat certain “over the top” Internet services like cable providers for residuals purposes.  And there were Guild proposals that we did not achieve, like script fee parity across platforms, script fees for staff writers, and mandatory second steps for screenwriters.  Those goals will have to await future negotiations. 
We wish to thank our talented professional staff led by WGAW Executive Director and chief negotiator David Young. This agreement could not have been reached without their tireless efforts on behalf of all writers.  We are lucky to have them.
Negotiating Committee Members
Chris Keyser (Co-Chair)
Billy Ray (Co-Chair)                                   
Chip Johannessen (Co-Chair)
Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Amy Berg
Adam Brooks
Patti Carr
Zoanne Clack
Marjorie David
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Howard Michael Gould
Susannah Grant
Erich Hoeber
Richard Keith
Warren Leight
Damon Lindelof
Glen Mazzara
Alison McDonald
Jonathan Nolan
Zak Penn
Luvh Rakhe
Shawn Ryan
Stephen Schiff
David Shore
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
Eric Wallace
Beau Willimon
Nicole Yorkin
Howard A. Rodman, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
David A. Goodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Eligible members may vote online beginning at 10:00 a.m. PDT on Friday, May 12, 2017. The voting deadline is 10:00 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.
ELIGIBLE VOTERS: Members must be Current Active who earned at least $33,701.25 during the past six years under the MBA (the earnings must have been declared for dues purposes as of 5/4/17) OR have 15 pension-eligible years based on MBA employment.
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WGA East members will use their (5) five digit member ID number.
Please contact Geoff Betts at (212) 767-7852 or for assistance.


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