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Writers Guild of America Touts Progress in Agency Stalemate

The Writers Guild of America West has told members it’s making progress in efforts to sign more agencies to its new rules for representing its members.

The missive was sent out Friday amid the WGA’s seven-month standoff with most Hollywood agencies. It gave no details other than asserting that the WGA leaders have been holding “useful discussions with several individual agencies.”

“All of them have asked for confidentiality, and honoring those requests is part of building the trust that allows the possibility of making deals,” the message added. “As soon as that happens, we will let you know.”

“In the meantime, the Guild is working with each franchised agency to systematize sharing of contracts, invoices, and other data, tailored to the agency’s capacity and systems,” WGA leaders also said. “In some cases we are working with their software vendor to set up data feeds.”

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.

President 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 regarding 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 — signed deals with the WGA since have April.

Sources have told Variety that other mid-sized agencies have expressed reluctance to agree to rules that are perceived as giving the WGA increased power over their clients.

CAA, UTA and WME recently 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 stand-off with agencies has heightened worries that the WGA will go on strike after its current master contract expires on May 1. The WGA message Friday outlined the upcoming preparations for negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The two sides have not yet set a date for starting talks.

“As always, Guild staff has prepared research, data and potential negotiating proposals for leadership and membership to consider as we begin the process of setting priorities,” the message said,

“Next week the WGA will announce the negotiating committee and the following week will send out a member survey where you can identify the MBA issues that matter the most to you,” it added. “Member meetings will commence in early 2020 to give further opportunity for member feedback, and the pattern of demands will be put to a vote prior to the start of spring negotiations. We will send out additional updates as events unfold.”

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