Case Study: Writers Guild of America East Strikes Back With Communications

Company: Writers Guild of America, East
Agency: Goldman Communications Group
Timeframe: November 2007- February 2008
In the Hollywood hierarchy, it has been a historical reality that very often the content creators—the writers—wield the least amount of power when it comes to protecting both their intellectual property and accrued benefits.
It’s been the provenance of much discord between the writers seeking to reap the fruits of their labor and the producers seeking to relegate them to the lowest rung on the totem pole. It came to a head on Nov. 2, 2007, when the Writers Guild of America rejected its union contract, which had just expired, and went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The writers’ beef: no compensation for new media as provided in the union contracts with AMPTP.
To get their fair share of the new media profit pie, Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), a 4,000-member union comprised of TV, film, radio, news and new media writers located east of the Mississippi, turned to Goldman Communications Group for PR counsel leading up to and during the strike, which effectively shut down the industry.

BARGAIN HUNTING
The PR team immediately went to work analyzing the past bargaining history of the AMPTP, including business models and information on AMPTP companies and media platforms. What they found was that negotiations on new media were always contentious.
For instance, after VHS tapes were invented, the AMPTP argued that it was “new technology without a viable revenue stream,” and asked the WGA to defer compensation until the next contract. Suffice it to say that the WGA complied, but AMPTP did not follow through: They refused to renegotiate that rate in future contracts. The scenario repeated with the introduction of DVDs.
Another finding uncovered by the PR team was that in past strikes, member solidarity was weak partially because guild messaging did not convey the necessity of a strike to all writers.

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