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Dues vs. Contributions

The Problem

One of the most common issues PWGA employees face occurs when a writer calls and wants to know why they don’t have health coverage even though they are current on their dues. It is a common misunderstanding, with an unequivocal, no exceptions response: Dues are paid to the WGA and are based on your income as a writer. Period. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the PWGA or health coverage. The PWGA is an entirely separate organization from the WGA with an entirely different contribution basis.

How Contributions Work

When a writer performs covered writing services for a producer or company that is signatory to the WGA minimum basic agreement (MBA), in addition to the monies the writer receives for writing services, an additional percentage is paid by the producer or company to the PWGA toward health coverage and the writer’s pension.

Under the current MBA, the signatory producer/company will contribute an amount equal to 10.5% of the writing services amount (11% as of May 1, 2018 and 11.5% as of May 1 2019) toward health coverage and an additional 8.5% toward pension. So, if a writer were paid $100,000, the company would contribute $19,000 to the PWGA toward pension and health benefits.

Qualifying For Health Coverage

The earnings minimum requirement for one year of Health Fund coverage is equal to the current Writers Guild of America minimum for a one hour network prime-time story and teleplay. Earnings minimums will increase with any increase in the Guild minimum provided by the collective bargaining agreement.

A writer receives health coverage when he/she earns the equivalent of a one hour, network primetime drama in any four consecutive quarters.

The chart below shows how the Health Fund coverage qualification rules are applied and how coverage is earned based on the new earnings minimum effective July 1, 2017:

Quarter Earnings Minimum Is Satisfied Amount Required To Qualify Processing Quarter Coverage Begins Coverage Ends Earnings Cycle For Next Year Of Coverage
3rd Quarter 2017
07/01/2017 – 09/30/2017
$38,685 4th Quarter 2017 01/01/2018 12/31/2018 10/01/2017 to 09/30/2018
4th Quarter 2017
10/01/2017 – 12/31/2017
$38,685 1st Quarter 2018 04/01/2018 03/31/2018 01/01/2018 to 12/31/2018
1st Quarter 2018
01/01/2018 – 03/31/2018
$39,071 2nd Quarter 2018 07/01/2018 06/30/2019 04/01/2018 to 03/31/2019
2nd Quarter 2018
04/01/2018 – 06/30/2018
$39,071 3rd Quarter 2018 10/01/2018 09/30/2019 07/01/2018 to 06/30/2019

Please note that if you have reached the ceiling on a project or received compensation that is not subject to reporting, these earnings may not be applicable to Health Fund eligibility. Non-reportable compensation includes the following items:

  1. Excerpt payments
  2. Royalties
  3. Character payments
  4. Options
  5. Late fees
  6. Expenses
  7. Theatrical residuals
  8. Over-ceiling TV residuals
  9. Separated rights payments
  10. Publication fees
  11. Amounts over the weekly staff, 14K and 14E2 minimums (unless otherwise contracted)

A detailed summary of what is and is not covered reportable compensation can be found here.

For a one-hour daytime serial program, if you are a writer of thirteen (13) breakdowns during one thirteen-week cycle, who has been paid a total of less than $38,685, you may still be eligible to receive one year’s Health Fund eligibility. Please call the Contributions Department at the Administrative office for details.

Final Thoughts

The price for a one hour network prime-time drama changes whenever a new MBA is negotiated, so it is important to keep in mind that while the specific health coverage qualifying amount may vary in a given contract period, the formula remains consistent: a writer receives a year of health once he or she earns the equivalent of the price for a one hour network prime-time story and teleplay within any consecutive four quarter period (with a one quarter waiting period after the qualifying amount is earned).