WGA East Names Sam Wheeler as Executive Director

The former attorney previously served as executive director of the American Guild of Musical Artists

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Sam Wheeler

The Writers Guild of America East has hired Sam Wheeler as its new executive director, succeeding Lowell Peterson and beginning his duties on April 1.

Wheeler joins the WGAE after serving as the National Executive Director of the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) since 2022. He began at AGMA as Eastern Counsel in 2019, where he led negotiations for workers at the Metropolitan Opera, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Boston Lyric Opera, Chautauqua Opera, and Pittsburgh Opera.

Further, Wheeler played a key role in successfully steering a revision to AGMA’s governing documents and subsequent constitutional referendum in 2020. Prior to AGMA, Wheeler served as a labor attorney at Cohen, Weiss and Simon LLP, where he represented both private and public sector unions in contract negotiation, litigation, and administrative proceedings, and provided internal guidance on strategic and governance matters. 

Wheeler also served in the general counsel office for both the National Education Association and United Steelworkers.

“I am honored to join the WGAE as Executive Director. I want to thank President Cullen, the Officers, and the Council for placing their trust in me. WGAE members have built a dynamic, member-led, fighting union and I am thrilled to be part of the work ahead,” Wheeler said in a statement.

Wheeler succeeds Lowell Peterson, who ended a 15-year tenure at WGAE last October following the end of the 148-day WGA strike. Peterson worked with former guild president Michael Winship in overseeing the strike’s implementation in New York, Atlanta and other key east coast production hubs and was involved with current president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen in the five days of marathon talks in September that ended the strike.

“In keeping with our transformative times, we looked for a transformative leader — and we believe we’ve found such a leader in Sam Wheeler. His clear strategic vision impressed our Search Committee and Council, as did his reputation for working closely with members and staff, leading tough negotiations and diligently administering collective bargaining agreements,” Cullen said in a statement. “He has already proven himself to be a forward-thinking labor leader who can execute on promised goals. We have full confidence he will serve the diverse interests of the Guild’s 7,500 members.”

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