The WGA declared today that no deal was reached with the Association of Talent Agents on a new franchise agreement, and ATA executive director Karen Stuart and WGA West President David A. Goodman issued separate statements about the impasse.
“The WGA leadership today declared a pathway for compromise doesn’t exist,” Stuart said in her statement. “Agencies have been committed to reaching an agreement with the WGA but, despite our best efforts, today’s outcome was driven by the Guild’s predetermined course for chaos. The WGA is mandating a ‘Code of Conduct’ that will hurt all artists, delivering an especially painful blow to mid-level and emerging writers, while dictating how agencies of all sizes should function. We came to the negotiating table in good faith and put forth comprehensive proposals providing choice, disclosure, transparency, shared revenue and a significant investment in inclusion programs. Unfortunately, not to our surprise, the WGA did not accept our offer, did not provide counterproposals and refused to negotiate further. We’re prepared to continue to fight for the best interests of writers and all artists.”
Meanwhile, Goodman opened today’s last day of bargaining with the ATA by saying that the guild is going ahead with its plans to implement a new Agency Code of Conduct. The talks for a new franchise agreement had been extended until midnight tonight, but Goodman said that so little progress has been made at the bargaining table that the guild had no choice but to proceed with its plans to implement the Code.
Here is Goodman’s full statement:
“As I said, we granted the week’s extension as a sincere effort to try to find a solution,” he said. “But it is clear to us that we are not appreciably closer. We are willing to continue meeting with you when you provide a proposal that truly addresses our expressed concerns, but our Friday deadline has arrived and we are moving forward with the implementation of our Code of Conduct and the enforcement of our WGA Working Rule 23.” That rule prohibits members from being represented by agents who are not signed to a WGA franchise agreement. At midnight, that agreement will become the new Code, which all the major agencies have said they will not sign.”
To that end, the guild today released a batch of new instructions for guild members if and when the WGA gives them the order to fire their agents, including an electronic letter “notifying your agency they can no longer represent you for covered writing services if they haven’t signed the Code of Conduct.”
In his remarks, Goodman told the agents in response to their latest proposal to share their packaging fees with writers, that he feels “it’s necessary that we be honest about where we are. We granted the one week extension with the sincere hope that we could reach a solution, and there have been a few moments of hope. On the subject of independent features, we appreciate the constructive dialogue we have had. I know it’s the feeling of the feature writers on our committee that the conversations and negotiations have been productive, and that we are close to finding an agreement on that issue that will both protect writers and allow agencies to be properly compensated for the important work they do in this area.
“Unfortunately, it is the feeling of this committee that this is the only area where we we’ve made progress. Your proposals on information sharing are entirely inadequate. You continue to refuse to recognize the primacy of the Guild and our legal right to the information as exclusive bargaining representative for writers. Any consultation with an attorney experienced in labor law would confirm you are legally protected in this area, and some of you know it from your own experience with the sports unions. CAA is required to turn over the contracts to the NFL Players Association within 48 hours. The overwhelming majority of our members want their deal memos, contracts and invoices to go directly to the Guild, and any member that doesn’t will have avenues of recourse directly with the Guild.
“Your presentation on packaging was a little confusing, not because we don’t understand it, but because you claimed that we didn’t, and then made a presentation that was very close to the speech I gave to our members. Our overall description of the mechanisms of packaging fees was exactly the same. Though we appreciate that you were listening to Mike Schur’s discussion of how important mid and low level writers are to us, your proposal of .8% of your backend of new series in no way realigns your incentives with these writers. You are still receiving money from our employers for access to us, and keeping 99% of the profits of your backend. It does not change your incentives at all. It is not a serious proposal and we reject it.
“On your diversity fund proposal, the fact is, it shouldn’t rely on this negotiation. The moral obligation that our industry provide access and opportunity to underrepresented artists of our community is an obligation that we have only begun to address. While we applaud your willingness to confront issues of diversity and inclusion, it shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip. You should know the comment of the diverse members of this committee upon hearing your proposal, was “We’re not pawns.” We also reject that proposal. And if you really feel that the program you proposed would make a difference, you are free to spend the money you pledged outside of this negotiation.
“You have chosen to make no proposal on your affiliates, except to take a “wait and see” approach, which you did not present to us in this room, and so many of us only found out about when we read it in the trades. Even if you had presented it to us, it would still be unacceptable. Despite your protestations to the contrary, these production companies are not independent of your agencies, your private equity investors openly talk about how your leveraging representation of clients to create a production business is why they invested. While we acknowledge that you have made favorable talent deals, they are clearly a loss-leader strategy. We do not need to ‘wait and see’ to know they will disappear when the business settles in. We reject this proposal.”