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Pension Plan

A Brief History of the Plan

Before beginning a summary of the Plan's terms, here is a summary of its history.

The Plan was started in 1960 and has grown from some $600,000 in initial funding to its present size of more than $2,000,000,000, as of December 31, 2012. The benefits for participants (and their beneficiaries) are funded by contributions made by contributing employers and investment income.
The rate of employer contributions is set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement under which work is performed. All contributions are held in a trust fund under the terms of the Plan document.

Only contributing employers with a collective bargaining agreement with the Writers Guild of America, East and West ("Union") may make contributions to the Plan. Participants are not required (nor are permitted) to make any contributions to the Plan. In addition, Participants may not roll over any amount from another retirement plan into the Plan.

The Plan is a multiemployer defined benefit plan, meaning that if a Participant performs covered work for multiple employers under one or more Collective Bargaining Agreements that provide for contributions to the Plan, those employers are required to report a Participant's covered earningsEarnings for employment as a writer that is covered by the Plan. Work for which there is no employee-employer relationship is not covered. Royalties, options, clips, program fees, character payments, theatrical residuals, publication fees, separated rights payments, and sale of original material are also not considered covered earnings. However, for periods on and after May 2, 1998, sales of literary material are considered covered earnings if the Employer also employs the writer to do a rewrite or polish on the material. for his or her covered employment to the Plan and to make contributions to the Plan on his or her behalf. The Plan (and not the contributing employers), however, defines the pension benefit that a Participant will receive from it. The formula used to determine a Participant's pension benefit is based upon employer contributions made on his or her behalf and his or her earnings from covered employment (as defined below). The Plan has paid pensions from the first day of its existence. It has also increased the size of its pensions to Participants many times.

The Plan is jointly administered and governed by a Board of Directors with equal representation from contributing employers in the industry and from the Union. The names of the current Directors may be found elsewhere in this booklet. As Directors, it is their responsibility to see that the Plan's assets are invested prudently. They also design the Plan with an eye toward fairness to participants (and their beneficiaries) and, of course, what the law requires. Numerous rules have been established for the Plan in the 50 years of its existence and the Directors have examined and re-examined the rules to make sure that they do not work hardships against individuals or groups. Over the years many changes were made to the Plan in order to conform it to applicable federal regulations governing pension trusts. It is inevitable that what suits one Participant does not always suit another. The Plan's many adjustments over the years can be seen in a close reading of past booklets.

The Plan stems from a simple philosophy: the pension paid to each Participant should bear a relationship to the money he or she earned from covered employment. That means the more money a Participant earns as a writer under covered employment (as defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement) the greater the pension will be (to the extent allowed by law). Over the years there have been many changes to the collective bargaining agreements and the Plan document. Project ceilings and the rate of pension contributions have increased. One of the most significant changes occurred under the 1998 Minimum Basic Agreement ("MBA"). Purchases of literary material, which had previously been non-reportable, became reportable when the Writer was also hired to perform additional services, such as a rewrite or polish on the material, and was a "Professional Writer" as that term is defined in the MBA.

The rules are complex, but we believe them to be fair, reasonable, and well within the law.

The Union (Writers Guild of America, East, Inc. or Writers Guild of America, West, Inc.) is a separate legal entity from the Plan, so please remember that all communications (correspondence, forms, payments, documentation, etc.) regarding pension benefits should be sent directly to the Administrative Office of the Plan – and not to the Union. The Plan (or its Administrative Office) is not a subsidiary, department or agent of the Union. No portion of dues paid to the Union are used to pay for pension benefits or operational expenses of the Plan, except for contributions that the Union makes to the Plan to provide benefits to its own staff employees.