Comedy Central’s in Trouble with the WGAw

Hate like hell to see this kinda thing go down:

Dear Writers Guild Member,

We are writing to alert you that you must refrain from writing for Central Productions, the production arm of Comedy Central, without first contacting theWGAW contracts department (323-782-4501) to ensure that the writing is Guild-covered.  If you are currently writing on a Central Productions project, please contact us immediately.  Central Productions is not signatory to the MBA, and if there is no Guild contract in place specifically for the project you are working on, you are now required under Working Rule 8 to stop writing.

Background: In 2007, writers on five Comedy Central shows produced by Central Productions organized together to gain Writers Guild coverage. As a result of the writers’ collective actions, though the company refused to sign an overall MBA deal, the five shows became covered by individual Letters of Adherence to the MBA.  From 2008 to 2011, the Guild signed agreements covering 37 additional Central Production pilots, series, roasts, and specials, resulting in WGA coverage of all non-animated shows on Comedy Central.

In late 2011 the Guild learned that 15 Central Productions projects had been written without a Guild contract in place, although the writers were led to believe that the projects were Guild-covered.  Since the writing had already been completed, Guild negotiators were unable to count on writer leverage to negotiate the deals, and P&H contributions could not be accepted by the benefit funds.  After Central Productions’ representatives pledged to change these practices, Letters of Adherence were negotiated retroactively for those 15 projects.

Earlier this year the Guild learned that Central Productions had done it again: they hired writers on more than two dozen new projects without first securing underlying deals with the Guild.  Again the company represented to writers that such Guild deals were in place. No other major entertainment company has treated writers and their Guild so cavalierly.

To protect writers from these practices, this summer the Guild entered into negotiations with Central Productions to reach an overall deal that would eliminate the need for project-by-project Letters of Adherence. These negotiations are ongoing. We intend to take this opportunity to negotiate the best possible contract terms, including industry-standard residuals formulas.  We also intend to protect against the company’s practices of hiring writers before a deal is in place, and of attempting to negotiate MBA terms directly with individual writers rather than with the Guild.

As a result: until an agreement with Central Productions is concluded, Writers Guild members may not work on uncovered Central Productions projects.

It is never easy to ask a fellow member to stop working. We understand all too well that such a call comes with the real possibility of personal sacrifice. We do not do it lightly. But the principle that we work, all of us, under a contract with certain basic protections that may not be undercut and that may not be re-negotiated, member-by-member and case-by-case, is the cornerstone of our strength.  As Central Productions’ behavior has proven once again, Guild coverage cannot be a sometimes thing. And so, while we might rightly say to Central Productions shame on you, what we say instead is: no more. Without a contract there will be no work. And we must say that together – all of us, no exceptions — as a Guild.

Thank you for your support as we negotiate to ensure that all current and future writers at Central Productions enjoy the protections and benefits of the Writers Guild agreement. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.

Chris Keyser

Howard Rodman
Vice President

Carl Gottlieb

David Young
Executive Director

We’d love to hear the Comedy Central side of this. Gents, the Comments section awaits. Or you can email us here.

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