If you're interested in becoming a member of the Writers Guild of America, West, here's what you need to know:
We work on a unit system (described in detail below*) based on writing employment and/or sales within the Guild's jurisdiction and with a "signatory" company (a company that has signed the Guild's collective bargaining agreement). Depending upon the number of units earned, a writer may be eligible for either Current (full) membership, or Associate (partial) membership.
Current membership: In order to be eligible for Current membership a writer must acquire a minimum of 24 units in the three years preceding application. Upon final qualification for Current membership, an initiation fee of $2,500 is due, payable to the Writers Guild of America, West.
Associate membership: A writer may be eligible for Associate membership if he or she has had writing employment and/or sales within the Guild's jurisdiction and with a "signatory" company but has acquired less than 24 units in the three years preceding application. Upon final qualification, Associate membership is available for a total of three years at a cost of $100 per year.
SCHEDULE OF UNITS*
For each complete week of employment within the Guild's jurisdiction on a week-to-week basis.
Story for a radio or television program less than 30 minutes shall be prorated in increments of 10 minutes or less.
Story for a short subject theatrical motion picture of any length or for a radio or television program or breakdown for a non-primetime serial 30 minutes through 60 minutes.
Teleplay or radio play less than 30 minutes shall be prorated in five-minute increments;
Television format for a new serial or series;
“Created By” credit given pursuant to the separation of rights provisions of the WGA Theatrical and Television Basic Agreement in addition to other units accrued for the literary material on which the “Created By” credit is based.
Story for a radio or television program or breakdown for a non-primetime serial more than 60 minutes and less than 90 minutes;
Screenplay for a short subject theatrical motion picture or for a radio play or teleplay 30 minutes through 60 minutes.
Story for a radio or television program 90 minutes or longer or story for a feature-length theatrical motion picture; or breakdown for a non-primetime serial 90 minutes or longer.
Radio play or teleplay more than 60 minutes and less than 90 minutes.
Screenplay for a feature-length theatrical motion picture; radio play or teleplay 90 minutes or longer;
Long-term story projection, which is defined for this purpose as a bible, for a specified term, on an existing, five times per week non-prime time serial;
Bible for any television serial or primetime miniseries of at least four hours.
One-half the number of units allotted to the applicable category of work.
One-quarter the number of units allotted to the applicable category of work.
One-half the number of units allotted to the applicable category of work subject to a maximum entitlement of eight such units per project in any one year. An extension or renewal of the same option shall not be accorded additional units. If an option on previously unexploited literary material is exercised, the sale of this material is accorded the number of units applicable to the work minus the number of units accorded to the option of the same material.
For information about units earned in new media, go here.
ADDITIONAL MEMBERSHIP RULES
If three (3) or fewer writers are employed to write literary material for the same comedy-variety program for television, each writer shall be accorded the number of units for teleplay applicable to a program of the same duration (as may be adjusted pursuant to the applicable time period" provisions in Appendix A of the MBA). If more than three (3) writers are employed to write literary material for the same comedy-variety program for television, each writer shall be accorded the number of units for teleplay applicable to a program of the same duration but multiplied by a fraction the numerator of which is one and the denominator of which is the number of writers minus two. For example, if there are five (5) writers employed, the multiplier would be one-third (1/3); if there are ten (10) writers, the multiplier would be one-eighth (1/8).
Documentaries and Informational Programming
Telescripts for documentaries and literary material for informational programming shall be accorded the number of units for teleplay applicable to a program of the same duration.
Each writer who collaborates as part of a bona fide team on the same project shall be accorded the appropriate number of units allotted to the applicable category.
New or Unique Cases
In any case not covered by this Section 4, the Board of Directors shall have the authority to convene a Committee to Review the Unit System, which Committee shall suggest specific units applicable to any such work to the Board. Such unit determinations as may be adopted by the Board shall be submitted for membership approval at the first annual or special membership meeting following the Board's action.
Writer Owned Company
In all cases, to qualify for membership, if the writer's employment, option or purchase agreement is with a company owned in whole or in part by the writer or a member of the writer's family, there must be a bona fide agreement for financing, production and/or distribution with a third party signatory producing company. Failing such an agreement, the script must be produced and the writer must receive writing credit on screen in the form of "Written by, "Teleplay by," "Screenplay by," or (audio credit) "Radio Play by."
Writers In A Managerial Capacity or Writer-Performers
A person who is employed to write or who sells or options literary material to a signatory company while:
a) serving in a managerial capacity with the company; or b) rendering managerial services relating to the project for a network, syndicated television station(s), basic cable or pay television system, a studio, or the like, or (c) employed as a player on the project, shall not utilize this assignment, option or sale to qualify for membership in the Guild unless such script is produced and the individual receives writing credit on screen in the form of "Written by," "Teleplay by," "Screenplay by," or (audio credit) "Radio Play by."
Exceptions to the Three-Year Rule
In exceptional cases, the Board of Directors, acting upon a recommendation from the Membership and Finance Committee, shall have the power and authority to grant admission to Current membership based on units earned prior to three (3) years before the membership application was filed.
Financial Core Non-Member
Under federal law, members of a union may legally resign from the union and non-member applicants may choose not to join the union, instead electing what is known as "financial core non-member" status. We are required to give members and membership applicants certain information about the financial consequence of taking this status. That information is included here:
Non-Member Financial Core Status Policy Statement (.pdf)
Notice to WGAW Dues Payers (.pdf)
* The source for the complete text of these requirements is the Writers Guild of America, West Constitution and Bylaws, Article IV, Section A-4, as amended June 21, 2006.