EW.com has exclusively obtained a memo from ABC Studios that, among other things, instructs members of the Writers Guild of America on how they can cross the picket lines without fear of fines and/or retribution. Along with educating writers on federal laws guaranteeing their right to work during a strike, the memo — which was prepared by the studio’s senior vice president for legal affairs, Milinda L. McNeely, and dated Oct. 30 — says writers can “resign their membership” before crossing a picket line and yet still be entitled to all the same benefits under the WGA Minimum Basic Agreement.
“We encourage writers to work,” the memo says. “The decision whether to join or not join the strike is an individual decision for each person to make.” The memo also includes an FAQ section that addresses whether replacements can be hired during the strike (“this is not the studio’s preferred choice”) and whether a writer can walk away from his contract when the strike ends (“no,” says the memo).
When asked about the memo, an ABC Studios spokeswoman issued this statement: “In response to numerous inquiries by production employees of ABC Studios about whether they could continue to work during a strike, we provided them information about their legal rights. The law protects both the right to work as well as the right to strike. We thought it fair that employees be fully informed when making this personal decision.”
Mona Mangan, exec director of Writers Guild East, wasn’t surprised to learn of the memo. “They send out the same tired stuff. They’ve all got it in the filing cabinet somewhere. A member has an obligation to strike if there’s been a majority vote, and we had over 90 percent of the members vote to support this strike. So there’s not a lot of dissonance anywhere. It’s almost eerie how unified this support is.”