Work stoppage looming? Impasse in WGA negotiations over The Onion’s ONN series on IFC

UPDATED! (9:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1) Word from my sources at The Onion have informed me that the labor dispute described below has been resolved. Details forthcoming.

Last night, former and current contributors to The Onion — America’s leading humor print and online publication — received an appeal by email to support the writing staff of the IFC’s Onion News Network series, who wrote for the first season without an agreement under the Writers Guild of America.

An email from the WGA informed them last night, the ONN writing staff were not about to continue their second season as “the only scripted live action television show now in production where the writers did not work under a WGA agreement,” without health benefits, Guild pay and a contracted set term of employment. The WGA and The Onion — much like Democrats and Republicans in Congress playing chicken over the debt ceiling deadline — have yet to reach an agreement, and are looking at a possible work stoppage on Aug. 2 by the unorganized writers of ONN.

The second season of ONN is scheduled to begin in September 2011.

Here is the WGA email from last night:

Dear current and former Onion Writers and Contributors,

First and foremost, thank you for signing on to the letter expressing your support for the staff writers at the Onion News Network. If you haven’t had a chance to sign yet, it’s not too late. The fact that we were able to deliver a letter with nearly 100 signatures from Onion contributors past and present sent a strong message to the company and meant a great deal to the writers.

We wanted to update everyone on the current situation and status of negotiations. As you already know, the staff writers on ONN asked the Writers Guild to help them negotiate a contract with the Onion at the beginning of the first five week writing period for the IFC tv show. While every other member of the cast and crew had been signed on a union contract (DGA, AFTRA, etc) the writers had not – and as a result were working without the promise of benefits or a sufficient term of employment. Moreover, the show was the only scripted live action television show now in production where the writers did not work under a WGA agreement.

Several weeks ago the WGA began informal conversations with the company about reaching a fair deal for these writers. At the time of this writing, however, the company had yet to offer a deal that the majority of the writers felt they could work under.
This week, the majority of the writers on the show decided to turn down contracts to write on the show during the second writing period unless significant progress was made in negotiations.  As we mentioned, conversations are on going and we are hopeful that an agreement will be reached in time for them to return to work. In the meantime, your support means more than ever. If you have not had a chance to add your name to the letter – please do so. If you have additional questions please feel free to ask.

We will keep you posted on the situation.

Keeping them posted, this urgent update just went out within the hour updating current and former Onion contributors:

As many of you already know, several weeks ago the writers of the Onion News Network approached the company about bargaining for a better contract that would include health care and a sufficient writing period. While there have been informal negotiations, a deal has not be reached. While we hope that the company comes up with a fair agreement that values the high quality of work that is generated, if we do not reach an agreement, we are prepared – and are left no choice but – to call for a work stoppage beginning Monday morning.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

5 thoughts on “Work stoppage looming? Impasse in WGA negotiations over The Onion’s ONN series on IFC

  1. Good for the writers! Let’s hope the Onion manages to do the right thing here. If they can manage to get a first look deal with CBS, they ought to be able to play by industry rules.

  2. Please check out this link to a short segment of my lecture before a video class in Troy, NY last year. Thanks. And I support the writers, especially due to my “empty” contract with Broadcast Music, Inc., pasted below the lecture link:

    July 30, 2011


    John Bowe’s article about BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated) in the SUNDAY NEW YORK TIMES Magazine Section recently seemed
    disingenuous to me and a number of my friends who compose and publish music. His comprehensive report on licensing establishments, utilizing BMI music, failed to address the many thousands of composers and publishers who do not share in the royalties, dispersed by what seems to be a closely guarded secret magic formula, protected and hidden by BMI.
    I have been a member of BMI as both a writer and publisher for more than five decades. The early years were remunerative, especially with a novelty song I wrote for Art Carney (“The Honeymooners”) recorded on Columbia Records, and featured by Julie Harris in June Havoc’s Broadway play, “Marathon 33.”
    My disappointment with BMI concerns the past six years when an
    award-winning documentary, “Abel Raises Cain,” for which I wrote and published all the music through BMI, has continued to play worldwide in theaters, cafes, on radio, television, cable and over the internet.
    Unbelievably, I have yet to receive a single penny in royalties! And an investigation by BMI remains unresolved. I wonder why?


    AA:ej Alan Abel
    cc BMI (

Comments are closed.