The fight to get animation writers included among the ranks of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) may have taken a major step forward last night in New York.
Despite inclement weather, around 100 people showed up outside Warner Bros. Discovery’s offices on Tuesday night to picket and promise that once the ongoing writers’ strike has been resolved, the next priority is to get WGA coverage for animation writers.
Background: Efforts to get animation writers included in WGA have been going on for years. At times, the road has been bumpy, like in 2020 when the Guild suggested live-action writers who were put out of work by the pandemic should switch to animation. More recently, though, things have been chummier, and in August of last year, more than 1,500 WGA writers signed a pledge to fight for WGA coverage of animation writers.
What’s new? Now, with the writers’ strike acting as a catalyst, that pledge seems to have evolved into action. Speaking at the Tuesday night gathering, WGA East animation caucus co-chair Susan Kim said that once the ongoing strike has been resolved, “we are circling back to animation.” She called on each animation writer present to register their attendance so that the union can reach out to them later this year.
How has animation been affected by the writers’ strike? As we previously reported, many animated shows have been largely unaffected by the ongoing WGA strike as most animation writers aren’t members of the union. A full list of the shows which have been affected by the work stoppage can be found here.
Why do animation writers want to be repped by the WGA? WGA is the dominant writers’ union and its contracts cover many high-profile (usually adult) animated shows like The Simpsons, Rick and Morty, and Family Guy. But most union writers in the animation industry are represented by The Animation Guild (TAG), IATSE Local 839, which also covers artists and, increasingly, production workers. The WGA has a significantly larger membership and wields greater influence in Hollywood than TAG, and therefore has more leverage when it negotiates with the studios, who are represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
What was said on Tuesday night? Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter (check out Abbey White’s fantastic on-site reporting here), WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson explained why, on the east coast at least, WGA coverage of animation writers won’t hurt TAG’s numbers:
We are very close to [TAG parent organization] IATSE and IATSE has been very supportive of our strike. So, we’re certainly not going to go raiding. I would say most animation writing in New York is non-union, and it’s not TAG at all. Particularly children’s animation. In New York, I’ve talked to them, and they say better to have collective bargaining, fighting for health benefits and residuals, than not.
The Animation Guild business rep Steve Kaplan told THR:
We support the organizing of any and all members of the entertainment industry who are not protected under a collective bargaining agreement. Right now, our focus is on standing in support of WGA and SAG-AFTRA members to get the best deal possible during this difficult time in the industry.
Late-night host Stephen Colbert was on hand to show his support for the striking writers. He said:
I’m here to support the WGA and SAG and The Animation Guild. I believe their goals are reasonable and now is the time. Don’t wait. We have to win.
Last year, animation workers at his animated series Tooning Out the News voted to unionize with TAG, becoming just the second group of workers in New York to do so.