David Goodman has been convincingly re-elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America West, beating Phyllis Nagy in a bitter contest that became a referendum on the guild’s ongoing battle with talent agents.
Goodman received 4,395 votes to Nagy’s 1,282 in an election that yielded record turnout among the WGA West’s nearly 10,000 members — more than half of eligible voters cast ballots. Goodman’s allies also won all 10 other seats that were up for election.
Marjorie David ran unopposed for vice president and won with 4,706 votes.Michele Mulroney received 4,164 votes for secretary-treasurer to 1,256 for Nagy ally Nick Jones, Jr. and 203 for Evette Vargas. Incumbent Meredith Stiehm topped the board of director candidates followed by incumbent Luvh Rakhe (4,000), Liz Alper (3,967), incumbent Angelina Burnett (3,960), incumbent Nicole Yorkin (3,874), Zoe Marshall (3,819), Robb Chavis (3,679), and Dante W. Harper (3,628),
Marc Guggenheim took in the most votes of Nagy’s allies with 1,488, followed by Sarah Treem (1,476), Nicholas Kazan (1,462), Courtney A. Kemp (1,418), Jason Fuchs (1,270), Rasheed Newson (1,255), Ayelet Waldman (1,203) and Ashley Edward Miller (1,160).
A total of 5,809 valid ballots were cast. Representing 58% of 9,988 eligible voters. It’s the largest in Guild history and more than doubles the previous record turnout of 2,475 in the 2018 Board of Directors election.
The results in the highly contentious and closely watched contest were announced early Monday evening. Ballots were mailed in late August to nearly 10,000 eligible members of the WGA West.
More than 8,000 members voted in March to support the leadership’s Code of Conduct to ban agency packaging fees and affiliate ownership, while less than 400 opposed. Goodman asserted that the changes were essential in order to align the interests of members with agents. Members were ordered to fire their agents on April 13 if the agents had not complied with the Code of Conduct.
Nagy headed the Writers Forward Together on a platform that highlighted the need for the WGA to resume negotiations with the major agencies. Goodman and his allies opted for talks with individual agencies since June. Three mid-sized agencies –Verve, Kaplan Stahler, and Buchwald — signed deals with the WGA that included bans on packaging fees and affiliate ownership.
Goodman ran unopposed for the post in 2017. Half of the 16 WGA West board seats were up for election for two-year terms. Participation level in the guild elections has tended to run between 20% and 30%
Nagy’s slate issued a concession statement Monday evening: “We congratulate David Goodman and the elected officers and board members on their victory. Elections crucially give voice to opposing points of view, and while our strategies may differ, our goals are the same: to serve the best interests of our fellow members. We remain committed, passionate advocates for our Guild who believe that far more unites us than divides us. We were honored to hear the concerns and perspectives of so many writers, and look forward to participating in the next chapter of the Guild’s proud history.”
The campaign by the current leadership included an April 17 filing of a state court suit against WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners over the legality of packaging fees. The suit was re-filed suit in federal court in August alleging antitrust and racketeering violations. WME, CAA, and UTA counter-sued the guild in May on antitrust grounds, alleging that the firing of agents who had not signed the Code of Conduct amounted to an illegal boycott.
More than 30 prominent showrunners, including Greg Berlanti, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, signed an open letter in July endorsing Nagy’s slate, which underscored the level of discontent among prominent guild members. But the public break with guild leadership drew harsh criticism of Nagy’s endorsers as wealthy elitists willing to undercut the guild even though they are less dependent than other members on agents to find work.
The WGA has encouraged managers and attorneys to take over the role of agents in finding work for members. The campaign was marked by extensive complaints by Nagy’s supporters that Goodman and his allies had fractured the guild’s unity and made it more difficult for many members to get work.
The campaign also saw many more candidate withdrawals than usual. William Schmidt challenged Goodman in July, then withdrew and asked supporters to vote for Nagy; Carl Gottlieb and Craig Mazin both withdrew from the VP race due to health and family issues, respectively; and four of Goodman’s supporters — Joshua Hale Fialkov, Rob Forman, Ed Herro and Chris Roessner — all ended their candidacies in order to heighten the chances of his allies getting elected.
The emotions on display in the WGA West election are also setting the stage for tense negotiations in the coming months with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The WGA’s current three-year master contract expires May 1. The Directors Guild of America’s and SAG-AFTRA’s pacts are up June 30.