Meredith Stiehm was easily reelected president of WGA West on Tuesday, as the writers guild is poised to resume negotiations with the major studios amid a strike that has lasted more than 140 days.
Stiehm, creator and executive producer of the CBS series “Cold Case” and a writer and executive producer of the acclaimed Showtime drama “Homeland,” has been president since 2021.
She ran against comedy writer Rich Talarico, who ran on a platform of having the WGA bring more transparency to Hollywood accounting practices and hold studios more accountable for withholding money from writers. Talarico’s writing credits include the sketch comedy series “Key & Peele” and “Mad TV.”
Stiehm won 89% of the votes cast in the election.
Stiehm was one of the leaders during the WGA’s dispute against the talent agencies several years ago over packaging fees and their ownership of production companies, which the union decried as conflicts of interest. In 2019, writers fired their agents in an effort that resulted in agencies ending their practice of taking fees from studios for packaging writers with other talent for movies and TV shows. The agencies also agreed to significantly reduce their stakes in affiliated production firms.
Stiehm acknowledged on her candidate website that the strike is a “serious, heavy thing” that she does not take lightly. But, she said, she learned through her experience in the agency fight that “things are impossible until they’re not.”
“I believe in shooting high, speaking truth to power, and holding the line when necessary,” Stiehm wrote on the site. “I am guided by fairness and principle, and if it comes to a stand-off for a righteous cause, I am tireless.”
The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents the major entertainment companies — will meet on Wednesday to continue negotiations. The last time the two sides met on Aug. 22 went badly, and was followed by the AMPTP releasing a summary of its earlier proposal publicly. That move was seen by some writers and industry observers as an attempt to go around WGA’s negotiators.
Key issues include minimum staffing in writers rooms, job protections against artificial intelligence, and streaming services disclosing more viewership data so that writers can be more financially rewarded for successful programs.
The film and TV writers have been on strike since early May and actors joined them on the picket lines in mid-July, bringing Hollywood scripted productions to a virtual halt.
Stiehm’s victory was widely expected. It can be difficult for challengers to beat an incumbent during a time when WGA received a very high-margin vote in favor of a strike authorization and members are looking to leadership to project strength in a high-stakes situation. Earlier this month, SAG-AFTRA members reelected President Fran Drescher in a landslide.
“Especially when there’s a need for public solidarity, they go in favor of the incumbents because folks rally around the flag of the strike,” said Victor Tan Chen, an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of the book “Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy.” “They want to show a united front.”
Incumbents in other top leadership positions, including WGA West Vice President Michele Mulroney and Secretary-Treasurer Betsy Thomas, were also reelected, defeating challengers Isaac Gómez and Jeffrey Thompson.