The WGA has a new ally in its ongoing feud with Hollywood’s talent agents – SAG-AFTRA. “We congratulate the Writers Guild of America on their successful membership vote and applaud the guild for taking steps in the best interests of their members,” the actors’ union said today. “We stand with our sister union in the ongoing struggle to protect members in the entertainment industry.”
Earlier today, the WGA’s new Agency Code of Conduct was overwhelmingly approved by the guild’s members, setting the stage for writers to fire their agents en masse if a new franchise agreement isn’t reached by April 6. The WGA is expected to resume negotiations this week with the Association of Talent Agents, but no date has been set.
Before its merger with AFTRA, SAG had its own bitter dispute with the ATA over one of the key issues at stake in the WGA’s standoff with the ATA – agency affiliations with related production companies. In 2002, SAG’s board of directors approved a deal with the ATA that would have allowed a limited form of such partnerships, but SAG members voted it down. SAG disenfranchised all the major agencies but never ordered its members to choose between their agent and their guild, as the WGA now stands ready to do.
AFTRA approved a very similar deal with the ATA at the same time SAG was in the process of voting it down. The two unions merged in 2012, and SAG-AFTRA does not have a franchise agreement with the ATA to this day.
Last October, before negotiations had even begun, WGA West executive director David Young claimed that ATA executive director Karen Stuart and the agencies “busted” SAG’s franchise agreement, citing it as the reason he assumes the WGA’s showdown with agents will end in “conflict” rather than “partnership.”
“In 2002,” he told her in an email, “the ATA agencies busted the SAG franchise agreement over your demand to be allowed to become producers. Given that similar concerns are part of our 2018 proposals, we do not assume that partnership rather than conflict will prevail, but we remain hopeful. In that spirit, we look forward in due time to our formal discussions with you.”
Stuart, however, has said that Young has his history wrong – that the ATA did not “bust” SAG’s franchise. In its statement of support today, SAG-AFTRA didn’t mention agents or the ATA.
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