Writers Guild East Election: Candidates Who Back Digital Media Organizing Growth Win Council Seats

After a heated contest that raised questions about the future of digital journalists in the union, the Writers Guild of America East has unveiled the results of its latest Council elections.

Filling six open freelance seats are Josh Gondelman, Sasha Stewart, Liz Hynes, Lauren Ashley Smith, Benjamin Rosenblum, Tracey Scott Wilson, David Simon and Tian Jun Gu and filling three open freelance seats are Kim Kelly, Sara David and Hamilton Nolan, the union revealed Tuesday. Former WGA East president between 2007 and 2017 and current Council member Michael Winship was elected president, Council member Lisa Takeuchi Cullen was elected vice president and former Council member Christopher Kyle was elected secretary-treasurer after all three ran unopposed.

A little over 30 percent of the Guild’s nearly 7,000 eligible members voted in an election that energized the union’s voters. In 2020, only about 12 percent of the union’s members voted in that year’s Council election.

These results follow a tempestuous battle between two slates of candidates — the Inclusion and Experience ticket and the Solidarity Slate — over the future of digital media organizing in the Guild. Inclusion and Experience, which backed the top officer candidates and nine Council candidates, argued that a demographic shift in the union thanks to aggressive organizing in digital media will soon reduce film and TV writers to half of all members. (The union does not confirm figures offered by either slate.)

Inclusion and Experience candidates wanted to restructure the union so that “each segment can govern its own issues independently,” its platform said, once members have been surveyed. The Solidarity Slate, on the other hand, supporting seven Council candidates, maintained that the organization continuing to organize digital newsrooms is key to keeping and amplifying the union’s power as well as improving the workplaces of digital journalist members. “Now that we have a lot of media people in our union already, it’s important that we continue to organize the ENTIRE industry,” the candidates said on their platform.

The results mark a major win for the Soldarity Slate, with all seven candidates elected in Tuesday’s election. Inclusion & Experience candidates succeeded in landing four seats, in addition to the main three officer seats.

This year, editorial employees at MSNBC officially voted to unionize with the Guild, which also announced that employees at Jigsaw Productions had “overwhelmingly signed union cards” to organize with them. After a strike, the Guild also came to an agreement with ITV over ABC’s The Chase, which is now covered by the union’s Minimum Basic Agreement.

With a two-year term ahead of them, the union’s new top officers and Council members will lead the Guild both through the identity issues regarding digital journalists that many Council candidates talked up in their campaigns and its next Minimum Basic Agreement negotiations in 2023. After current president Beau Willimon decided not to seek re-election this year after four years in the role, Winship, initially reluctant, was persuaded by other union members to run for the role. During the campaign, he told The Hollywood Reporter that when in office he will work with Solidarity Slate writers “with an eye toward how we can all work together and move forward in very good and positive ways.”

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