The late summer 2019 timing of the WGA election for new president, officers and eight board seats was considered perfectly timed for the membership to select leaders they feel would best fight for their interests in the crucial 2020 negotiations with the AMPTP.
But while the battle with the studios is still looming on the horizon, it is another standoff that is currently on the minds of WGA members — the ongoing impasse with the Association of Talent Agents which led to more than 7,000 writers firing their agents.
The WGA leadership is looking to stay the course of hardline approach toward agencies as most current WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee members in elected guild positions are seeking reelection. That includes David A. Goodman, the outspoken President of WGA West and the public face of the guild’s agency campaign, and agency negotiating committee co-chair Meredith Stiehm, one of the most vocal showrunners against agency packaging and one of the plaintiffs in WGA’s lawsuit against the Big 4 agencies over the practice. She is a WGAW board member seeking reelection, as are fellow negotiating committee members Angelina Burnett and Nicole Yorkin.
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Negotiating committee/board member Michele Mulroney was selected by the guild nomination committee as one of two candidates for secretary-treasurer as Aaron Mendelsohn, a negotiating committee member, is not seeking reelection. Current Vice President and negotiating committee member Marjorie David will be facing a challenger as she goes for another term.
Five agency negotiating committee members are in the middle of two-year terms, Ashley Gable, Betsy Thomas, Deric A. Hughes, Jonathan Fernandez and Patric M. Verrone. The remaining member of WGA’s agency negotiating committee who is a current WGA board member, John August, is not running. (WGAW leadership has been driving the agency campaign, at WGA East, seeking reelection is incumbent board member David Simon, who, like Stiehm, has been speaking out against packaging and is a plaintiff in the WGA lawsuit.)
The WGA election campaign is kicking off as the standoff between the WGA and the ATA has taken another turn, with Goodman yesterday announcing the the guild is rejecting the latest ATA proposal, taking the packaging fee revenue sharing option off the table and planning to hold talks with individual agencies. (As of Friday night there was no word of the guild initiating conversations with agencies.)
There had been an undercurrent of dissent from the early stages of the WGA’s campaign for a new Code of Conduct to address conflict of interest stemming from packaging fees and agency-affiliated production companies. At town halls and in private meetings with WGA brass during the weeks leading to the membership vote for a new Code of Conduct., showrunners had expressed concerns over the aggressive rhetoric by the WGA leadership toward the agencies and the lack of clear endgame plan.
The vast majority of WGA members still voted for the new Code of Conduct and fired their agents from disfranchised agencies upon orders from the guild. The latter upset a number of writers who felt pressure to let go of their agents after being told before that vote that they wouldn’t have to do so.
The guild leadership and their motives for combatting conflicts of interest continue to enjoy broad support among rank-and-file writers. But there also has been a growing dissatisfaction with the guild’s current course of action, including the toppers’ unwillingness to negotiate with the ATA, their inability to articulate to the membership what their endgame is and the move to sue the Big 4 agencies over packaging.
While most writers who disagree with the current WGA direction have remained in the shadows over fears of retribution, some have started to speak out, most recently through a letter to WGA West Executive Director David Young signed by 20 prominent writers who raised questions about the current leadership’s strategy.
Two of the 20 writers who signed the letter, Rasheed Newson and Ayelet Waldman, are among the 17 candidates selected by a nomination committee to compete for the eight open WGAW board seats in a race where they will face incumbents representing the current WGA direction. We will see once the platforms of each candidate — including any nominated by petition — are unveiled how many of them would be critical of the current guild leadership over the ATA standoff.
Then the membership will demonstrate with their votes in September whether they want to stay the course or push for a change in direction.
No one has declared yet that they would challenge Goodman for the Presidency but there is chatter that one or more writers not happy with some of the current guild tactics may be considering running against him.
The deadline for nomination by petition is July 23.
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