Writer's Guild of America
The Writers Guild of America is a union to which all screenwriters for Television and Film are required to pay dues.[Citation Needed] The guild began in 1933 (known then as the Screen Writer's Guild) with less than 200 members; today there are more than 15,000 members of the WGA. Writers are given the option to decline union membership, but must join if they want the benefit of collective bargaining. Current dues are $2500 for the first year.
Writers Guild and Communism
In the 1947, members of the Screen Writers Guild (the predecessor organization to the Writers Guild of America) refused to answer questions before the House Unamerican Activities Committee and were sentenced for Contempt of Congress to one year in prison. In April 1997, the Writers Guild announced that it would restore credit on films to blacklisted writers despite the fact that many were members of the Communist Party, and convicted criminals.
Purpose of the Union
Writer's Guild members cite several reasons to join the union: minimum salaries for writers, writer-determined credits, residuals in perpetuity, portable health insurance and a pension at 52 years of age.
2007 Writers' Strike
In November of 2007, the Writers Guild of America broke off negotiations with Hollywood studios because the studios would not capitulate to demands for increased bonuses on DVD sales and internet distribution of film and TV, even though the profitability of these areas are uncertain and are high risk ventures for the studios. Despite the intervention of a federal mediator, the Writers Guild has refused to negotiate further. On Monday November 5, members of the Writers Guild began a general strike which is estimated to be costing the Los Angeles economy over $80 million per day. John Ridley, screenwriter of the film Three Kings has stated that the Writers Guild is like a communist organization in its refusal to allow the free market to determine the compensation due an individual writer, or the rights of an individual writer to join the guild or not. Despite the fact that many Writers Guild members work in non-writing capacities on many shows (such as producers, actors, or show-runners) they have still refused to report for work shutting down the production of many shows including "The Office", The Tonight Show, and 24. However, many TV personalities have supported the strike - The Office's Steve Carell (who is a former writer) has refused to cross the picket line - and the Tonight Show's Jay Leno served donuts to those who went on strike (and also made a statement supporting them).
Writers Guild and Politics
Website of the Writer's Guild of America