David Young, the chief negotiator for the Writers Guild of America, has bowed out of the negotiations on a new basic agreement due to a medical leave.
The WGA informed members Tuesday that Ellen Stutzman, the assistant executive director of the guild, will take over as chief negotiator.
The move comes just three weeks before the high-stakes negotiations are set to begin with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The current three-year contract is due to expire on May 1, and writers have been agitating for significant increases in wages and residuals and for measures to address “mini rooms.”
Young, the executive director of WGA West, has led every negotiation since 2007, when the union went on strike for 100 days. He has been a singular figure in the world of Hollywood labor. His aggressive reputation was cemented during the union’s agency campaign in August 2020, when he allegedly threatened to “kill” WME’s Rick Rosen during a phone call.
Young joined the union in 2004, and was appointed executive director in 2005. A former plumber, he came to the guild with a background in “blood and guts unionism,” having worked in organizing for garment and construction unions, as well as a stint for the Teamsters. He was hired to bring a more openly confrontational style to WGA talks.
Young earned $897,371 in the 2022 fiscal year, according to labor filings.
In a letter to members, the WGA leadership did not specify the nature of his medical issue or say how long he was expected to be out.
“We know we speak for the entire WGAW and WGAE memberships in wishing David a full recovery,” they wrote.
A spokesperson for the AMPTP said, “We are sincerely sorry to hear of David Young’s medical issue and wish him a speedy and successful recovery.”
Stutzman has been with the guild for 17 years, and has been assistant executive director since 2018. She began her career at the guid as a researcher, later becoming research and public policy director. As assistant executive director, she has overseen the union’s agency, contracts, legal and research and public policy departments. She has been involved in the past three basic agreement negotiations as well as the agency campaign.
“Ellen has earned the confidence and full support of the WGAW Board, WGAE Council, and the WGA Negotiating Committee,” the union leadership wrote. “She will lead a staff with decades of experience negotiating and enforcing the MBA, and organizing and mobilizing members to support the Guilds’ contract campaigns.”
On Monday, the WGA released its “pattern of demands” that lays out the broad set of issues that will guide its negotiating position. Members were asked to vote to approve the document by March 7. Negotiations begin March 20.