The Writers Guild of America, known as the WGA, is a labor union that represents writers in television, film and new media. Because the WGA negotiates collective bargaining agreements with studios and has secured many benefits, including guaranteed minimum salaries, residuals, writing credits, pensions and health plans, professional writers tend to be members of this union. On the other hand, for producers, working with WGA writers can impose certain requirements that may not otherwise arise. Let’s walk through some requirements that producers and others who are considering hiring a WGA writer should know.
Becoming a WGA Signatory
First, if you plan to hire a WGA writer, you or your production company must formally agree to the terms the WGA has negotiated and become a WGA Signatory. A WGA writer is explicitly prohibited from selling their screenplay to, or otherwise working with, a company that is not a signatory. To become a signatory, your company must complete an application, send it in with a draft of the proposed contract between your company and the WGA writer you intend to hire, sign guarantees insuring guild members will be paid their agreed compensation, and receive a signed Letter of Adherence back from the WGA.
Restrictions on WGA Signatories
Once your company achieves WGA Signatory status, there must be an adherence to the rules and regulations of the WGA.
Notably, WGA Signatory companies must abide by the following:
- Your company must only hire writers who are members of the WGA. Your company may not hire any writers who are not WGA members.
- Your company must not pay writers less than the minimum compensation under the WGA Basic Agreement. As of this posting, the WGA Basic Agreement is current through May 1, 2023.
- Your company is required to make pension and health contributions on behalf of the writers you hire. As of this blog posting, under the current Agreement, companies must make pension contributions at a rate of 9.75% – 11.25% of the compensation paid; health contributions at a rate of 11.5% of the compensation paid; and parental leave contributions at a rate of 0.5% of the compensation paid.
- Your company must credit the writers appropriately. The WGA must approve your proposed on-screen credits before publication. Schedule A of the Basic Agreement governs the precise requirements for “Written by,” “Screenplay by,” “Story by,” “Adaptation by” or “Screen Story by” credit eligibility.
Your company will retain its WGA Signatory status for the term of the Basic Agreement, which is typically a one-year period. There are many additional requirements of WGA Signatories that an experienced entertainment attorney can help you consider.
Your company does not have to hire a WGA writer. Keep in mind, so long as your company is not a WGA Signatory, it is the union member who may not work with you, and not the other way around. Still, because many professional writers are WGA members, producers often become WGA Signatories in order to work with the union’s talented writers.
If your company needs assistance to move forward with a WGA writer, our firm can help. Contact a member of our team for more information.
Carlianna Dengel is admitted to practice law in New York and California.
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