EXCLUSIVE: In a clear sign the WGA is gearing up for a possible strike, the WGA West is moving to establish a strike fund to assist members who will be facing financial hardships in the event of a prolonged walkout. A Strike Fund Committee has been established, and rules governing the allotment of strike loans are now pending approval by the guild’s board of directors.
The move comes after members overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike — and at a time when many guild members are still paying off loans from the last strike. According to annual reports the guild files with the U.S. Department of Labor, it loaned $2.86 million to 189 writers during the 100-day strike of 2007-2008, of which only $1 million had been repaid as of last year.
In a preliminary report, the Strike Fund Committee said it will consider “many factors” in determining who will obtain a loan this time, including the pending loss of a home, car or medical coverage. The primary factors the committee will consider include:
- The financial impact of the strike on the member and on his or her family or other dependents;
- Whether or not the member has made one or more covered sales of literary material, or was employed to render covered services under the WGA’s 2014 film and TV contract, or has a deal pending subject to the 2014 contract;
- Whether or not the member is in serious jeopardy of losing housing, a car or medical coverage, or is facing a similar financial emergency;
- Whether or not the member is eligible for unemployment insurance.
“Some members,” the report says, “may confront situations requiring assistance beyond our Strike Fund’s capacity, in view of the anticipated needs of all qualified applicants. In such cases, if the member has obtained approval of the strike fund committee, and can qualify for a loan from the Musicians’ Interguild Credit Union or any other institution with comparable or lower interest rates, the strike fund will reimburse the borrower for up to 12 months’ interest.”
The Strike Fund Committee will review loan applications on an anonymous basis, with members’ names replaced by a code. Borrowers will be required to sign a promissory note, and if the loan becomes delinquent, to assign a portion of their future residuals to the Strike Fund until the loan is repaid.
The report states that loans will be repaid at the end of the strike in one of three ways, at the borrower’s election:
- A lump sum at a 10% percent discount, interest free, if repaid in full within 180 days from the end of the strike;
- Twelve equal monthly installments, interest-free, beginning no later than 180 days after the end of the strike;
- Twenty-four equal monthly installments beginning no later than 180 days after the end of the strike, the first 12 months to be interest-free, and the second 12 months to be repaid at the guild’s going rate of interest earned on interest-bearing investments as of the date the twelfth monthly payment is due.
The 2018 Strike Fund Committee is chaired by WGA West secretary-treasurer Aaron Mendelsohn. Other members of the committee are VP David A. Goodman; board member Carleton Eastlake; and writers Elias Davis, Tony De Sena, Cynthia Riddle and Dan Wilcox.
The WGA East is also expected to establish a strike fund if a walkout begins after the May 1 expiration of the current contract. The WGA East doesn’t have outstanding loans from the last strike, when it issued loans to 31 members totaling $227,000. But six of those loans totaling nearly $10,000, were “written off as uncollectible,” according to a WGA East financial report.