Writers Guild Of America History: Uniting for the Rights of Screenwriters Everywhere
The Writers Guild of America history began with the Screen Writers Guild. Spurred on by salary cuts, ten writers met in Hollywood to revive the Screen Writers Guild. The Screen Writers Guild signed their first agreement with the producers of motion pictures in the early 40’s. In 1948, the guild asked for rights to the material they had written in addition to being employees. The popularity of the new medium of television in the 50’s opened a new arena for writers and access to American families, so the Screen Writers Guild began to include television writers. In 1954, five organizations for writers merged together. They name the new organization the Writers Screen Guild of America, with divisions in the west and east.
In the 1960’s, residuals were negotiated for writers of motion pictures shown on television. The Writers Guild of America also established a pension plan for its members. But the big news of 1960 for the Writers Guild was their five-month strike against film and television producers. The six-year contract was agreed upon by Writers Guild of America members and promised a royalty of at least four percent. But by 1966, those residuals were changed back to the fixed television residuals in place before 1960. Residuals for foreign releases were agreed upon in 1970. A strike in 1973 resulted in the creation of a Health Fund for Writers Guild of America members. Story editors, rewriters, and writer-producers were invited to join the organization.
The longest strike in Hollywood went on for 22 weeks in 1988. 2000 writers picketed film studios and met for strike rallies in the Hollywood Palladium. The strike resulted in a loss to Hollywood producers of hundreds of millions of dollars.
In 1999, credits were changed on 82 movies to list the writers who were deleted from the credits during McCarthy’s Blacklist Era. More films were added to the list in the following years. With the new millennium came protection for Internet writers and allowed them to be covered by the pension at Writers Guild of America undertook a new challenge in 2005 to protect the rights of those writing for reality television.
The Writers Guild of America again went on strike in 2007. 12,000 writers went on strike against film, television and radio producers. The fourteen-week strike ended in February of 2008 when an agreement was reached to resolve issues about DVD residuals, jurisdiction over reality and animation writers, and royalties for electronically produced media.