WGA West opposition presidential candidate Phyllis Nagy is urging members to adopt her “reasonable” approach to negotiating a new deal with Hollywood’s talent agencies – or face employers in contract negotiations next year who will be emboldened to take a hardline bargaining position if most writers are still without agents.
Her message, posted on her WGA Forward Together website, comes on the eve of election ballots being mailed Thursday and in advance of tonight’s WGA Candidates Night forum.
Since April 13, more than 7,000 writers have fired their agents who refuse to sign the guild’s new franchise agreement, which bans packaging fees after one year and prohibits agency affiliations with related production entities. The guild’s current film and TV contract with management’s AMPTP expires on May 1.
Here is her full message:
For many of us, this election hinges on a single question:Do you want to negotiate a smart deal with the ATA now, or strike for no deal next year against the Companies?
Current leadership wants us to believe that our action will strengthen us in AMPTP negotiations; that our action against the agencies shows the Companies that we mean business. Let’s entertain that scenario for a moment.
In March, leadership asked AMPTP to renegotiate our current writer-producer contract to add an anti-packaging fee clause. That clause would have prohibited the Companies from working with agencies that didn’t sign our proposed code of conduct. AMPTP declined, citing concerns about possible violations of federal and state labor laws.
What happens next year when we find ourselves entering MBA negotiations? Do you think it’s likely that AMPTP will sign an anti-packaging fee clause and then give us the money they once forked over to agencies? Or do you think it’s more likely that the Companies will find a way to exploit our situation? History, which current leadership insists opposition candidates just don’t understand, tells us it’s clearly the latter.
The truth is, the Companies are not displeased with the action against the agencies. We’ve all heard the anecdotes from membership—studio execs praising direct access to writers—no gatekeepers, no middlemen—and yet we do not ask the pertinent question: why would they be happy about this? It’s not for lack of paying packaging fees to agencies. That continues to happen—packages built around IP, directors, actors—but not around writers.
Could it be because when we largely rep ourselves we cut worse deals? This is precisely what I’m hearing privately from dozens of members. Granted, in an election cycle where there is very little hard data being disseminated by current leadership, we are overly reliant on the anecdotal. Still, either we accept that our membership reports the truth to us, or we insist that every anecdote in contradiction to the current leadership narrative is anti-solidarity agency propaganda.
Opposition has been attacked on grounds of disloyalty, lack of guild service, and—most remarkably—on the basis of seeking to be ‘reasonable’—as a current board member recently did on social media—as if being reasonable stands in the way of getting what we deserve. What’s the opposite of ‘reasonable?’ Impractical. Implausible. Irrational. I’ll choose reasonable over all of those.
I, and every other officer and board candidate on the slate, run for office because we want what’s best for writers—we have a fierce belief in and optimism for the future of our Guild. There is no other reason to run. But we humbly suggest that, after nearly a half year’s stasis, it’s necessary to recognize that a change in strategy is called for—and that’s what we offer. A negotiated solution with the ATA now is what we truly believe gets us to the successful 2020 MBA negotiation we need and deserve.
The risks against choosing the ‘reasonable’ course are simply too great to ignore.