Agencies Seek to Hold Key Court Hearing Before WGA Elections

The four major agencies asked a court on Monday to expedite a key hearing in the Writers Guild of America lawsuit, as the agencies seek to have portions of the case thrown out before the WGA’s internal elections in September.

The WGA and the unions are still waging a legal and public relations battle over agencies’ practice of collecting packaging fees, which the union sees as a glaring conflict of interest. The WGA instructed its members in April to fire their agents, after the agencies refused to sign on to a code of conduct forbidding the fees. The WGA also filed a lawsuit, seeking to have the fees invalidated under state law.

CAA, ICM Partners, WME and UTA are asking the court to dismiss aspects of the suit. Last week, Judge William Highberger set a hearing on the motions for Sept. 19. That date would come after the WGA West and WGA East union elections, which are set for Sept. 2-16 and Aug. 28-Sept. 19, respectively.

The agencies filed a motion on Monday asking Highberger to set the hearing for Aug. 27. If the agencies were to obtain a favorable ruling on that date, it could undermine the union leadership’s hardline approach to the issue and potentially influence the outcome of the guild elections.

The agencies had earlier asked for a Sept. 5 hearing, but the WGA’s attorneys had said it would be a violation of federal labor law to hold the hearing in the middle of the union election. Highberger set the hearing for Sept. 19, but invited the agencies to file a motion asking for an earlier date.

In the motion, the agencies called the union’s argument “entirely specious and contrary to existing federal law.”

“In any event, it was Plaintiffs’ choice to wield this lawsuit as a political cudgel,” the agencies’ attorney wrote. “As such, their argument that their First Amended Complaint should not face a judicial reckoning until mid-September, five months after Plaintiffs commenced this litigation, is unpersuasive.”

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