The first of three WGA membership meetings this week to discuss the status of the guild’s ongoing standoff with Hollywood’s talent agencies drew polarizing reaction. Opposition candidates are accusing the guild’s leaders of electioneering at the Wednesday night gathering, a claim denied by WGA West president David Goodman, while other writers called it informative and “a strong showing of solidarity.”
“What David Goodman and David Young are doing tonight at the general meeting is a violation of the law,” tweeted Ayelet Waldman, a board candidate on opposition leader Phyllis Nagy’s slate. “Electioneering at guild events is specifically not allowed. Shame on them! In fact, many who are there reported their disgust at the electioneering.”
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In a statement, Goodman flatly denied that he or Young, the guild’s executive director, engaged in electioneering at the meeting. The term refers to the use of union resources to promote one candidate over another.
“I take my responsibilities as President very seriously, my remarks to the members last night, and always, are first reviewed and cleared by the Guild’s legal counsel,” he told Deadline. “It’s my obligation to let the membership know where we are in this campaign, the fact that we’re in the middle of an election cycle does not change that. As I stated last night, everything I said regarding why the agencies broke off negotiations with us was based on what they explicitly and directly said to us, including that they thought they might get a better deal if they waited. Overall, our meeting was an open, honest conversation with the membership with opinions expressed on all sides. It’s the strength of our union to be able to do that, and I look forward to continuing it.”
Others who attended the meeting disagreed.
“Here’s what I found troubling,” tweeted Rasheed Newson, another board candidate on Nagy’s slate. “David Goodman asserted as fact that negotiations with agencies have stalled because of the letter signed by 300+ members supporting a slate of candidates challenging his leadership. Mr. Goodman also stated that the agencies aren’t negotiating because they believe they can get a better deal from the slate challenging his leadership. Again presented as fact. Did the agencies tell him this?”
That letter, signed by more than 300 writers and showrunners, urged guild leaders to return to the bargaining table with the Association of Talent Agents. It was released on July 26. The two sides haven’t met since June 7 in their dispute over packaging fees and agency affiliated production entities.
“This was meant to be an information meeting,” Newson continued. “Speculation about the harm that will come if Mr. Goodman’s challengers are elected was expressed several times by Mr. Goodman and David Young. I think they are presenting opinion as fact and spinning a narrative to sway voters. That’s fine on candidates’ night. But campaigning is forbidden at the information meetings. Here’s what isn’t funny. Campaigning is forbidden at the information meetings. I’m not shocked by their political line of attack. I object to the forum they are using to air it.”
Writer Jonathan Redding, who’s not a candidate, disputed their electioneering claims. “I think they reported what happened,” he tweeted after the meeting. “There was a negotiation pending, and the Monday after the letter came out they were told by the agency ‘we’re gonna wait.’ That is pertinent information about the dispute process and timeline. I wanted to hear that.”
“It was a strong showing of solidarity,” a writer leaving the meeting told Deadline.
“It was a good meeting,” said another – a new member who’s working on a Netflix show. “I’m excited to live in a world where agents’ interest will be totally aligned with ours. I’m a new member, so I’m benefiting from a lot of the gains the guild fought for in the past. This is a really important fight. David Goodman was really compelling.”
Another writer leaving the meeting was less enthusiastic. “If you go to these meetings and expect any answers, you’re going to be sorely disappointed,” he said. “They can’t give us any answers because it would give away their negotiating position.”
Asked how long the fight with agents might last, another writer leaving the meeting said: “Probably a couple of years.”
Another membership meeting is set for tonight, and there will be another Saturday.
August 16, 2019
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