After a month-long debate over the future of digital media organizing in Writers Guild of America East, the guild’s council elections saw seven of the 11 open seats won by the pro-organizing Solidarity Slate, though the top officers will come from the opposing Inclusion and Experience Slate after running unopposed.
In this year’s elections, six freelance seats and three staff seats were up for grabs on the council, as well as two seats vacated by incoming guild president Michael Winship and incoming vice president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. All three staff seats, which are allocated to news writers, were won by Solidarity Slate along with four of the six open freelance seats, which are allocated to film and television writers. Council members are elected to terms lasting two years.
Winship and Cullen’s seats will be taken for one year by Inclusion and Experience candidates David Simon, creator of “The Wire,” and “House of Cards” writer Tian Jun Gu. Joining Winship and Cullen as officers is incoming secretary-treasurer Christopher Kyle, also running unopposed on the Inclusion and Experience slate. 6,746 votes were cast, representing 30% of eligible guild members. By comparison, just 12% of eligible members voted in last year’s council elections.
Winship and his fellow I&E candidates support a recent pause implemented by the council on any new digital news organizing until a recently established subcommittee can meet with WGAE members and consider a possible restructuring of the guild’s membership. Inclusion and Experience argues that the surge in digital organizing risks making screenwriters a minority in a guild originally founded to protect their interests and that a restructuring is necessary to ensure that “each segment can govern its own issues independently,” according to its platform.
Solidarity, meanwhile, argues that digital organizing must continue to build WGA East’s voice as a labor force and stem the tide against a media industry that has seen newsrooms suffer severe staffing cuts. The slate is particularly concerned about one potential option being weighed by the subcommittee that would involve spinning off the digital media unions under WGAE’s umbrella into their own separate guild that would be financially supported by WGAE until it could become sustainable. Winship has maintained that talks in the subcommittee are still in preliminary stages and no course of action will be taken or even strongly considered until multiple membership meetings can be conducted.
The debate over organizing spilled into social media, increasing voter turnout within the guild. The results are a victory for Solidarity Slate as all seven of their candidates were victorious, with only three of those candidates being incumbents. But that result means that the slate controls about half of the 21 total seats on the council. While Solidarity will now have a large voice on the council, it will be the membership meetings to come that will have the biggest impact on the guild’s future.
Read the full list of winning candidates below:
- President – Michael Winship (I&E) (1,299 votes)
- Vice President – Lisa Takeuchi Cullen (I&E) (1,313)
- Secretary-Treasurer – Christopher Kyle (I&E) (1,303)
Elected as Freelance members on the Council:
- Josh Gondelman (i) (Solidarity) (1,130)
- Sasha Stewart (Solidarity) (1,080)
- Liz Hynes (Solidarity) (1,070)
- Lauren Ashley Smith (I&E) (1,030)
- Benjamin Rosenblum (Solidarity) (1,024)
- Tracey Scott Wilson (I&E) (963)
- David Simon (i) (v) (I&E) (917)
- Tian Jun Gu (v) (I&E) (905)
Elected as Staff members on the Council:
- Kim Kelly (i) (Solidarity) (1,056)
- Sara David (Solidarity) (1,038)
- Hamilton Nolan (i) (Solidarity) (1,036)
*(i) denotes incumbent.
**(v) denotes one-year term to fill Council Freelance seats vacated by Michael Winship and Lisa Takeuchi Cullen.