Meredith Stiehm has been re-elected president of the WGA West, defeating Rich Talarico in a landslide.
A total of 3,783 valid ballots were cast, and Stiehm received 3,354 to Talarico’s 300. Stiehm’s running mates were also easily elected. Michele Mulroney, a member of the guild’s negotiating committee, was re-elected as vice president, and Betsy Thomas was re-elected as secretary-treasurer. Mulroney defeated Isaac Gómez, who’s currently serving as a strike captain, by a vote of 3,235 to 4
11. Thomas beat Jeffrey Thompson 3,182 to 421.
Stiehm’s re-election, which in effect was a referendum on the guild’s ongoing strike, comes the day before the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are scheduled to resume negotiations for a deal that, if successful, would end the WGA’s strike, which is in its 141st day.
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If a deal isn’t reached in eight days, the strike will become the second-longest in the guild’s history, and in two weeks, the longest. The WGA strike of 1960 lasted 148 days, and the strike of 1988 lasted 154 days. The ongoing strike is already 41 days longer that the guild’s last strike, which in 2007-08 lasted 100 days. SAG-AFTRA, meanwhile, has been on strike since July 14.
Stiehm’s re-election, and the election later this week of Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, who’s running unopposed to be the WGA East’s next president, will mark an historic first in which the presidents of the WGA West, the WGA East, the Directors Guild and SAG-AFTRA are all women. The chief executive officers of each guild, however, always have been men.
In her official candidate’s statement, posted on the guild’s election page back on July 25, Stiehm — whose writing and producing credits include Homeland, ER and Cold Case — wrote: “We are in quite a moment. As a Guild leader said to me on May 2, 2023: ‘You are now a wartime president.’ I do not carry that lightly. A strike is a serious, heavy thing. And at the time of this writing, July 25, it is still going on.”
Stiehm, who was one of the named plaintiffs in the WGA’s lawsuit that reshaped the talent agency business, wrote: “I got here largely because of another war, of sorts – I was one of the leaders of the Agency campaign in 2018. That was a long, arduous battle, and we were told over and over that our goals were ‘impossible.’ But they weren’t. We succeeded, and now are true partners with our agents, just as we will be partners again with the studios, when this strike is done. What I learned from that experience: things are impossible until they’re not.”
She added: “I know this moment can feel impossible sometimes too. It’s been a long, hot summer. But I see a resolution. I know we are on the right path, and it leads to a stronger place. And we are succeeding.”
She then listed the reasons why the WGA is succeeding in its ongoing strike.
“We’re succeeding because writers show up every day – on the picket lines, at the rallies, on line, and for each other. Because the captains and lot coordinators run their operations with cheerful efficiency and grace. Because members are dreaming up new theme pickets, meeting new friends, keeping the faith and encouraging each other daily.
“We’re succeeding because of our Officers and Board of Directors – they’re committed, brave, and going the extra mile at every turn. Because the Negotiating Committee is a murderer’s row of smart, thoughtful leaders who deeply understand, and care about, the dire situation writers are in.
“We’re succeeding because of the incredible staff at the Guild. They run picket lines, rallies and communications with quiet, can-do competence. They organized a march of 4,000 people through the streets of LA and made it look easy. They were born for this work.
“We’re succeeding because of our supernova chief negotiator, Ellen Stutzman, and because of the two members at the helm of this effort – ‘nice’ guys who are secretly hard as nails, co-chairs Chris Keyser and David Goodman.
“And we’re succeeding because we are aligned with the other Hollywood unions. We are friends and allies with the leaders of SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, LIUNA, AFM, DGA, and of course the badass Teamsters. Partnering with our sister unions has been a game changer. These alliances are so powerful, and the solidarity is infectious. If you were at the Shrine on May 3rd, you know. Labor is rising.
“We all feel the strength of that, and so do the companies. They see you from the windows of Netflix in your blue shirts. They know they can’t do the work without you.”
“Now that there are two strikes running,” she wrote, “the only way back for the studios is to make a fair deal for writers, and actors – one that shares the wealth with the people who create it.
“When the strike is over, we will build on our good relationships with our sister unions. We’ll show up for them when they are in need, as they did for us. And we’ll restore our relationship with the companies, and move ahead with the work we all love doing.
“I ran for president two years ago because I believe that ‘impossible’ things are possible. The 2023 MBA will be the next example of that. I believe in shooting high, speaking truth to power, and holding the line when necessary. I am guided by fairness and principle, and if it comes to a stand-off for a righteous cause, I am tireless. Or as my husband says, ‘stubborn as shit.’”
Talarico, a Peabody Award winner and four-time Emmy-nominated writer and producer who’s perhaps best known for his work on Comedy Central’s Key & Peele, was selected by the guild’s Nominating Committee to run against Stiehm. Talarico, who for years has been battling against a contract provision that allows for the “ongoing and persistent abuse” of five-minute promotional clips of TV shows, said in his campaign statement that the misuse of these clips “significantly harm writers’ potential compensation.”
On Key & Peele, he wrote: “We have amassed billions of views on promotional excerpts while receiving checks for pennies on the dollar in compensation, because this ‘promotion’ actually suffocates compensable platforms.” Comparing these promotional clips to a visit to Panda Express “where the manager offers chicken on a toothpick to entice purchase,” he wrote, “studios should avoid flooding potential customers with endless free samples without pay for writers. Such practices deter viewers from paying for the full menu. While the Minimum Basic Agreement is silent on the number of permissible uploads, the contract language could not have intended this endless over-saturation of ‘promotional’ clips with zero pay for writers. Writers were hired to create TV shows, not endless web-shows masquerading as ‘promotion.’”
In the election of eight board members, incumbent Adam Conover was the highest vote-getter (2,667), followed by incumbents Nicole Yorkin (2,511), Dailyn Rodriguez (2,342), Zoe Marshall (2,328) and Dante W. Harper (2,084). Newly elected to the board were Molly Nussbaum (1,551), Scott Alexander (1,464) and Rob Forman (1,285).
Every incumbent won re-election, including three officers and five board members.