WGA Disciplinary Trials Could Await Writers Who Don’t Notify Guild They’ve Fired Their Agents; Guild Responds – Update

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UPDATED with WGA statement, 4:43 PM: WGA West president David A. Goodman has issued a statement in response to Deadline’s story today about members who fail to inform the guild that they have fired their agents.

“The WGA is a group of writers, not a tribunal. The membership voted overwhelmingly, 95.3% in favor, to leave agencies that have not signed our Code of Conduct. Thousands of members have already done so. Our power is based on solidarity, not coercion, and this article’s supposition that we are planning on putting members in front of trial committees is false.”

PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: The WGA soon could be hauling members before disciplinary trial committees if they don’t notify the guild that they’ve e-fired their agents.

The guild’s Working Rule 23 states: “No writer shall enter into a representation agreement whether oral or written, with any agent who has not entered into an agreement with the guild covering minimum terms and conditions between agents and their writer clients.” As of April 13, that agreement is now the WGA’s Agency Code of Conduct. Members in violation of Working Rule 23 “shall be subject to discipline in accordance with Article X of the WGA West constitution,” the guild says.

“For our collective action to be effective, elected leadership has decided members must terminate in writing and be on record with the guild as doing so,” the WGA has told its members. Those trials could go on for months, and the trial committees are “not bound by any rules of evidence or procedure applicable in courts of law,” nor must testimony at trial be given under oath, according to the guild’s constitution.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of writers already have sent the guild e-signed notifications that they’ve fired their agents since Friday night’s expiration of the WGA’s franchise agreement with the Association of Talent Agents.

WGA

On Saturday, the guild told its members that it will “collect all documents for each agency and send them en masse to the respective unsigned agencies, but not before the end of next week. That will give you time to contact your agent directly – if you wish to do so, but it is not required – before the official form arrives.”

The threat of disciplinary proceeding comes after the guild ordered all of its members to fire their agents who refuse to sign its new Agency Code of Conduct, which all the major agencies have refused to sign. The new Code replaces the WGA’s 43-year-old franchise agreement with the ATA.

Under new rules adopted by the guild’s elected leadership, it’s not enough for writers to fire their agents – they’re also required to e-sign a letter of termination and notify the guild that they’ve done so or face disciplinary action.

According to Article X of the WGA’s constitution, members found guilty can be “suspended, declared not in good standing, expelled from membership in the guild, be asked to resign, be censured, fined or otherwise disciplined, or any combination of the foregoing.”

As noted above, Working Rule 23 — now updated to follow the WGA’s new Agency Code of — Conduct, says members in violation of “shall be subject to discipline in accordance with Article X of the WGA West constitution,” the guild says.

“While individual members have a voice and vote, after the guild decides on collective action, members are obligated to follow guild rules, which will be enforced,” the guild has told its members. “The WGA membership and leadership have ratified this course of action and the membership has a proud history of unity and solidarity. Article X of the WGA West and WGA East constitutions guides guild disciplinary procedures.”

Guild rules allow members to file charges against one another, but in cases where members fail to e-notify the guild that they’ve fired their agents, the charges would most likely be brought by the WGA West’s board of directors or the WGA East’s Council.

According to Article X, any current member of the guild or the board of directors can file a written charge with the executive board against any member “not later than one year after the date upon which the alleged offense occurred or one year after the alleged offense reasonably could have been discovered by such current member or by the Board, whichever date is later. The charge shall specify as succinctly and explicitly as possible the nature of the offense, the date and place of its occurrence, and the applicable section of the Constitution, working rule, strike rule or the like.”

Article X states that trial committees will be made up of five current guild members in good standing. “When the Board refers a member-initiated charge to a hearing or files a written charge with the Executive Director, the Board shall instruct the Executive Director to select five current members in good standing, none of whom is interested in the proceeding other than as a guild member, to act as a trial committee. The Executive Director shall do so as soon as practicable after the Board’s referral or filing of the charge from a pool of current members in good standing designated by the Board.”

If the charge is initiated by the board of directors, WGA West executive director David Young “shall present to the trial committee the charge and any evidence in support of the charge. If a member initiated the charge, that member or his/her representative shall do so. The member charged shall have the right to introduce evidence, present witnesses and to cross-examine any witnesses who have testified in support of the charge. A record shall be kept of the proceedings but the testimony produced need not be under oath. The committee is not bound by any rules of evidence or procedure applicable in courts of law. The Board of Directors may adopt such rules of procedure for trial committee proceedings as it finds necessary, desirable or proper.”

At the end of a trial, the trial committee will prepare a written summary of the proceedings and a report of its findings signed by its chairperson, “with a recommendation as to what form of discipline, if any, should be imposed. If any findings or recommendations are not unanimous, one or more trial committee members may attach a minority report. The Board shall receive a trial committee’s report and recommendations no later than ten days before the Board meeting at which a Board vote on the report is taken”

The Board may then “adopt or reject a trial committee’s findings and recommendations that a member is guilty of one or more charges. The Board may adopt, but cannot reject, a trial committee’s findings that a member is not guilty of one or more charges. After a finding of not guilty that member may not be retried on such charge. The Board may in its discretion increase or decrease discipline to be imposed upon a member found guilty.”

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2019/04/wga-disciplinary-trials-for-writers-who-dont-notify-guild-they-have-fired-their-agents-1202596193/