Leaders of the Writers Guild of America are maintaining their hardline position with talent agencies and are not interested in a compromise.
“We’ve had negotiation conversations over the past two months with a number of unsigned agencies, including major agencies,” the WGA’s negotiating committee said in an email sent to members late Friday afternoon. “It is clear these agencies very much want to represent writers again. We’ve listened to their pitches and will continue to meet with any unsigned agency willing to talk, while respecting their requests for confidentiality.”
“Nonetheless, nothing any agency has proposed or floated with regard to packaging makes us change our firm position, reaffirmed by the election results, that agencies should make 10% of writer earnings. Furthermore, our position remains that agency-controlled production studios are bad for writers, and that agencies must share with the WGA writers’ deal memos, payment invoices and all relevant information regarding how much agencies make for representing us.”
The announcement comes as the WGA has been locked in a heated standoff over the past six months with Hollywood agents over the issues of how agents represent WGA members. The guild required on April 13 that members fire their agents if the agents had not signed a Code of Conduct which bans agents from taking packaging fees and prohibits agencies from owning production affiliates.
David Goodman and his allies handily won the WGA West contest on Sept. 16 with a record turnout of 58%. After winning, Goodman promised that WGA leaders would begin meeting soon with individual agencies to sign agreements with the bans on packaging fees and affiliate production.
Currently, more than 70 agencies are allowed to represent WGA members thanks to agreeing to a ban of agency packaging fees and affiliate production. A trio of mid-sized agencies — Verve, Kaplan Stahler and Buchwald — have signed deals with the WGA since April. Goodman asserted that non-franchised agency outreach to writers has increased as agents continue to try to pressure and/or entice their former clients to violate the guild regulations in Working Rule 23.
A week ago, CAA, UTA and WME consolidated their antitrust suits against the Writers Guild of America into a single action, accusing the union of engaging in an illegal group boycott. The complaint repeats allegations that were filed in individual agency suits in June and July, accusing the WGA of abusing its collective bargaining authority and engaging in an unlawful “power grab.”
The agencies had no official comment Friday but a source with knowledge of their operations said that CAA, UTA, WME and ICM Partners have not met with the WGA since early June, when guild leaders declared that they would only negotiate with agencies on an individual basis rather than collectively through the Association of Talent Agents. Additionally, the source indicated that mid-sized agencies have expressed reluctance to agree to rules that are perceived as giving the WGA increased power over their clients.