WGA and DGA Clash Over Strike Rules About Directors and Writing

The Directors Guild of America is disputing a Writers Guild of America strike rule that forbids writer-directors from making minor script adjustments.

The battle revives a decades-old battle — which went all the best way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978 — over the WGA’s jurisdiction. Though the Supreme Court dominated in opposition to the WGA, the guild has continued to argue that “hyphenate” members are prohibited from making minor script modifications throughout a strike.

The dispute activates eight varieties of actions — together with slicing materials for time, making changes in dialogue, and altering stage instructions — that the WGA sees as writing work below its jurisdiction.

The DGA sees these actions — often called “(a) through (h) services” due to how they’re recognized within the contract clauses in WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement — as a part of a director’s job. According to the DGA, administrators are required to maintain performing these companies.

The conflicting recommendation impacts writer-directors who belong to each guilds. The WGA has threatened to self-discipline members who violate the strike guidelines, which might embrace a advantageous, suspension or expulsion. The DGA has mentioned that studios should indemnify administrators from prices of any WGA self-discipline, however that administrators should carry out these companies if the request is made in writing.

The clause relating to minor script adjustments has been within the WGA contract since 1966, and it’s been a supply of heated dispute for nearly as lengthy.

The clause particularly enumerates the restricted “writing services” that aren’t lined by the contract when carried out by non-writers. The contract defines a author as anybody employed to jot down literary materials, but in addition anybody employed for some other goal — a director, producer, actor, and so on. — who writes or revises literary materials. The “(a) through (h)” companies are an exception to the latter definition. They are the handful of writerly issues {that a} producer or director can do with out changing into a “writer” below the contract.

The dispute has been over find out how to learn that clause throughout a strike. The WGA maintains that these companies — when carried out by a author or hyphenate — represent lined writing.

In the 1973 writers strike, quite a few writer-producers and writer-directors crossed picket traces to work as producers and administrators. When working in these capacities, they have been performing as supervisors — and have been thus not on strike.

But the WGA accused these a lot of these members — together with huge names like Sam Peckinpah, Michael Crichton and Philip Kaufman — of violating the strike guidelines, which forbade members from working in any capability for struck corporations, in response to a 1975 National Labor Relations Board ruling. The strike guidelines additionally prohibited hyphenates from happening the studio premises with out guild permission.

The guild held disciplinary trials in opposition to 15 individuals and accepted penalties in opposition to 10 of them. Two of them — John Mantley and David Victor — have been expelled from the WGA and fined $50,000 apiece; others obtained lesser fines and/or suspensions.

The studios and networks filed an NLRB criticism difficult the guild’s proper to impose self-discipline for exercise that’s not lined by its contract.

The WGA argued — then as now — that it had the facility to advantageous or expel administrators and producers who carried out “(a) through (h)” companies. The guild argued that although these companies have been excluded from the contract, they have been nonetheless writing companies below the guild’s jurisdiction.

Sidney J. Barban, the executive regulation decide who dealt with the case, disagreed.

“The argument misses the point,” Barban wrote in 1974, saying the problem was not whether or not such features certified as “writing,” however slightly whether or not they have been lined below the contract. He additionally discovered that such companies “are accepted as a normal part of the duties and responsibilities of the executives and supervisors.”

The NLRB adopted Barban’s conclusions. It ordered the WGA to not threaten any self-discipline — together with fines, expulsion, blacklisting and ostracism — in opposition to members for performing supervisory duties throughout a strike.

The case, American Broadcasting Cos. v. Writers Guild of America West, finally went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the NLRB ruling in June 1978. On a 5-4 vote, the court docket discovered that the WGA had violated the National Labor Relations Act by threatening supervisors with union self-discipline, thereby depriving employers of their chosen representatives for grievance and collective bargaining functions.

In the ruling, the court docket said that “(a) through (h)” companies are “expressly not covered by the contracts between petitioners and respondent.” The court docket additionally cited Barban’s conclusion that such companies fall below the traditional duties of executives and supervisors.

By that time, the heated emotions of the 1973 strike had cooled considerably. The expulsions had lengthy since been rescinded and the fines had been dramatically decreased. None have been ever paid.

Mantley, who was government producer of “Gunsmoke” on the time of the strike, was quoted in Variety the day after the court docket’s ruling.

“I am absolutely delighted because I have always tried to behave in what I thought was an honorable fashion, and I am delighted that the court has supported my position,” he mentioned. “I think it will clarify the entire situation of the hyphenates in regard to future strikes.”

The WGA has since sought to take away the “(a) through (h)” exception from its contract. According to a Variety story from 1984, that was one of many guild’s calls for of the studios throughout contract negotiations that yr.

Yet the exception — and the dispute over it — have remained.

To assist its view, the WGA factors to a 1987 Supreme Court ruling, NLRB v. IBEW, that upheld union self-discipline in opposition to two supervisor members. In that case, the court docket discovered that the supervisors’ grievance and collective bargaining duties needed to be actual, and never speculative, to ensure that union self-discipline to run afoul of federal regulation.

“ABC is no longer good law,” mentioned Tony Segall, basic counsel of WGA West. “Under the IBEW decision, you actually have to have evidence they perform these duties. ABC would have come out differently had they followed the rule in IBEW.”

At the identical time, the WGA concedes that it can’t forestall members from serving purely as administrators or producers through the strike, as long as these members don’t carry out any writing companies. But it has continued to argue that the “(a) through (h)” objects represent writing companies which can be prohibited.

During the 2007-08 strike, the WGA warned hyphenates (by this level, they have been referred to as “showrunners” in TV) that they may face union self-discipline for performing “(a) through (h) services.” The studios argued that hyphenates might go forward and carry out these features, regardless of what the guild mentioned. The DGA agreed with the studios, taking the identical place then because it does now.

But neither the studios nor the guild have pressed the problem just lately by submitting an NLRB criticism. No circumstances have addressed the subject head-on for the reason that 1978 ruling.

During the 2023 strike, Disney has already suggested its showrunners that they’ll hold performing “(a) through (h)” features through the strike. The WGA responded on Twitter, saying that these companies are “specifically defined in the Guild contract as writing services and therefore constitute struck work that Guild members are prohibited from doing during a work stoppage.”

The WGA additionally accused Disney of partaking in “familiar union-busting tactics.”

The DGA has now additionally chimed in, opining that “(a) through (h)” companies usually are not lined by the WGA contract, and thus usually are not topic to the strike.

“Even though their own agreement excludes these services from coverage, the WGA has threatened to discipline hyphenate members who provide ‘(a) through (h) services’ on struck projects,” the DGA instructed its members. “Hyphenate directors, however, are required by the ‘no strike clause’ in the DGA Basic Agreement to continue providing directing services during the WGA strike, and their responsibilities traditionally include ‘(a) through (h)’ services.”

The DGA has additionally issued an announcement of solidarity with the WGA through the strike. The chair of the DGA negotiating committee, Jon Avnet, appeared on stage at a WGA rally on the Shrine Auditorium on May 3.

Nevertheless, the dispute about strike guidelines reveals that the 2 guilds usually are not essentially on the identical web page in all respects.

In an announcement, the DGA mentioned it helps the WGA’s efforts to get a good deal from the studios.

“At the same time, the DGA has a duty to clarify information about our members’ rights and responsibilities in their contracts, including potential actions that could put them in breach of contract,” the DGA mentioned. “We have advised our members accordingly of their rights and responsibilities so they can make informed decisions regarding their employment. Although we differ from the WGA in our position on the specific legal and contractual issues in this one area, we remain in support of the writers’ ultimate objective: a fair deal with the AMPTP.”

The (a) via (h) companies outlined within the WGA’s Mininum Basic Agreement are:

(a) Cutting for time
(b) Bridging materials necessitated by slicing for time
(c) Changes in technical or stage instructions
(d) Assignment of traces to different present characters occasioned by forged adjustments
(e) Changes vital to acquire continuity acceptance or authorized clearance
(f) Casual minor changes in dialogue or narration made previous to or through the interval of principal pictures
(g) Such adjustments in the middle of manufacturing as are made vital by unexpected contingencies (e.g., the weather, accidents to performers, and so on.)
(h) Instructions, instructions, or options, whether or not oral or written, made to author relating to story or screenplay

Leave a Comment