The Writers Guild of America, East Wants to Unionize Huffington Post

We think it’s a great idea. Ms. Huffington, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to agree. But we give her props for what follows – the site has posted this letter of intent by WGAE Prez Michael Winship, and it certainly didn’t have to. In solidarity:

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solidarity

by Michael Winship

Dear Colleague at The Huffington Post:

I have watched the growth of The Huffington Post since its creation in 2005, and since 2008 have been a featured blogger on the site, either on my own or with Bill Moyers. A few months before I became a contributor, I was elected president of the Writers Guild of America, East, a position I hold to this day.

In both capacities I have been an admirer of your website’s coverage of organized labor (including the Guild) and its emphasis on such progressive values as work-life balance and the importance of representation in the workplace. It is an honor to be associated with you.

I became a member of this union in 1981, delighted to receive my membership card and feeling, as so many of us have, that in many ways it marked my official entrance into the world of professional writers. I had written for newspapers and magazines as a freelancer but was just starting my career as a television writer, so it was a significant milestone. Since then I have had a wide range of work produced, including documentaries and public affairs programming, kids television, musical variety specials and made-for TV movies.

Through my years as an active member of the Guild, I have seen remarkable changes in the media industry and watched as our union’s scope has expanded beyond motion pictures, radio and television into a digital world that not only has served as a new distribution outlet for our work but also as its own creative milieu, a place in which new and innovative storytelling can flourish.

As you probably already know, during this past year we’ve started to organize and negotiate with digital media sites, a logical next step in our union’s history that combines our long history in the communications and entertainment industries with our demonstrated commitment both to adapting as technology has evolved and protecting its workers.

I was elected president of the Writers Guild of America, East, at a time of profound change and in a moment when this union made a greater commitment to member involvement and the democratic sharing of power and responsibility. I was placed in office by those members and chair the Writers Guild East Council, the governing body of the union, which consists of elected members representing many aspects of the entertainment and news businesses. Each of us participates in a variety of tasks, including the setting of policy and organizational objectives, management of the Guild’s budget and investments, and the appointment of and participation in a variety of committees dedicated to the betterment of our membership.

We are aided in this work by the Guild’s professional staff, employees with whom you may already have had contact. They execute the day-to-day activities necessary to implement the strategic objectives laid out by the elected council.

All of these endeavors are by no means limited to elected council members and staff — every single member is welcome and encouraged to participate. In this last year, for example, members have been involved in activities that, among others, have included working with the New York City municipal government to implement a writing fellowship program for underrepresented screenwriters, producing the annual Writers Guild Awards, and negotiating strong contracts for members. As more digital media employees join the Guild there will be further opportunities to utilize the Guild’s organizational infrastructure to build programs specific to your needs as industry professionals.

Organizing a Guild chapter at The Huffington Post is about protecting and improving your working conditions. In addition, as you’ll quickly see, it’s also about joining a community of your peers who understand what you do and work not only in the digital universe but also in a world of radio, television and film that ranges from news and documentaries to comedy and drama. From a personal viewpoint, I can testify that my involvement with the Guild has been one of the most productive and fulfilling things I have ever done in my life.

I know that many of your colleagues have already demonstrated their enthusiasm for joining the Guild by submitting union cards. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to submit a card today. We look forward to working together with you.

Warm regards and in solidarity,

Michael Winship
President