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Writers Guild Election Provoking Passionate Responses Over Agency Stalemate

The four-month stalemate between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood’s talent agencies is generating plenty of passion among guild candidates.

Wednesday night’s WGA West membership meeting at the WGA Theatre in Beverly Hills provoked accusations of electioneering — using guild resources for campaigning — against President David Goodman, who is seeking re-election, and WGA West Executive Director David Young. Goodman is advocating a hardline approach to achieve the WGA’s goals of banning agency packaging fees and affiliate production.

Opposition board candidates Rasheed Newson and Ayelet Waldman made the claims, which Goodman emphatically denied.

“What David Goodman and David Young are doing tonight at the general meeting is a violation of the law,” tweeted Waldman‏. “Electioneering at guild events is specifically not allowed. Shame on them! In fact, many who are there reported their disgust at the electioneering.”

Newson said in a Tweet, “This was meant to be an information meeting. Speculation about the harm that will come if Mr. Goodman’s challangers are elected was expressed several times by Mr. Goodman and David Young.”

Goodman said in response that he takes his responsibilities as president very seriously, and that his remarks are first reviewed and cleared by the Guild’s legal counsel.

“It’s my obligation to let the membership know where we are in this campaign, the fact that we’re in the middle of an election cycle does not change that,” Goodman added. “As I stated last night, everything I said regarding why the agencies broke off negotiations with us was based on what they explicitly and directly said to us, including that they thought they might get a better deal if they waited. Overall, our meeting was an open, honest conversation with the membership with opinions expressed on all sides. It’s the strength of our union to be able to do that, and I look forward to continuing it.”

A trio of candidates for the Writers Guild of America West’s board — Rob Forman, Ed Herro and Chris Roessner — announced this week that they had withdrawn from the contest. The three dropouts mean that there are now 18 candidates for eight open board seats in a contest that’s viewed as a referendum on the WGA’s hard-nosed approach. Election results will be announced on Sept. 16.

Phyllis Nagy is challenging Goodman on a platform that the WGA needs to get back to the bargaining table after six weeks of staying away. Nick Jones Jr. is also part of the slate as a candidate for secretary-treasurer, while board candidates Newson, Waldman, Nicolaus Kazan, Jason Fuchs, Ashley Miller, Sarah Treem, Marc Guggenheim, and Courtney Kemp have expressed opposition to Goodman’s approach.

Goodman declared on June 20 that the guild would no long negotiate with the Association of Talent Agencies and instead hold individual negotiations with nine agencies. One of those nine, Kaplan Stahler, subsequently signed a deal in which the agency agreed that it would not take packaging fees or engage in affiliate production. Besides Kaplan Stahler, two other mid-size agencies — Verve and Buchwald — have signed agreements with the WGA that ban packaging fees and affiliate production.

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