Thousands of writers have fired their agents, Writers Guild of America West president David Goodman said in a Monday letter to members less than three days after a Friday midnight deadline arrived with no deal between the WGA and Association of Talent Agents in the wake of negotiations that had collapsed earlier that day. How many thousands, the letter did not say, and the WGA did not respond to an inquiry on the subject earlier in the day.
The WGA West and East collectively have about 15,000 active members, though the number who have — or had — agents is unknown. The WGA has imposed a new “Code of Conduct” that none of the large or medium size agencies have signed, making those firms off-limits for WGA members.
“Thousands of members signed their [termination] letters in the first hours after the code was put in place, and the number keeps growing,” Goodman wrote. “As we said in the initial email, we’re gathering all the letters and will deliver them to each agency later this week. … By delivering all the signed letters together, it allows us to do what unions are designed to do: take a collective action on behalf of all members.”
Read the entire letter here:
April 15, 2019
Over the weekend, it’s been remarkable to see members taking to social media to share their support for the WGA as we rolled out the Agency Code of Conduct. The hashtag #IStandWithTheWGA started trending nationwide. Many members shared screenshots of their signed letters to their agencies, along with their eagerness to resume working with their agents once a deal could be reached that puts clients over conflicts.
Thousands of members signed their letters in the first hours after the code was put in place, and the number keeps growing. As we said in the initial email, we’re gathering all the letters and will deliver them to each agency later this week. Some members have reached out to me and other members of the negotiating committee asking why these letters are necessary at all. Since the Guild has implemented the Code of Conduct, isn’t that enough? Other members feel that the letters are inconsistent with what we first mentioned in our outreach meetings about the agency campaign – that no writer would have to individually fire their agent. So I want to talk for a moment about why we ultimately decided the letters were necessary.
Many things about this negotiation have required us to keep updating our strategy and tactics. We have never had to take an action like this with our agencies, and the last time this agreement was negotiated was 43 years ago. We determined that the best legal protection for writers against a future potential commission dispute was to have each individual terminate their agreement. Then your elected board and negotiation committee came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that it made the most sense in this situation, as a matter of political solidarity, for us to find a way to collectively state our position to the agencies. In a strike, our position is clear when we respect the picket line; in this situation we need an overt statement of strength, given agency efforts to question our 95.3% vote, and this is what we decided.
Had we instructed members to individually email their agents, that felt like it violated the spirit of what we’d promised. It put members in the awkward spot of firing their agents one by one. That was the motivation behind doing the form letter. By delivering all the signed letters together, it allows us to do what unions are designed to do: take a collective action on behalf of all members.
That’s why we’re doing it this way. We did not communicate this clearly, and for that I apologize. I want every member to feel that they understand why the Guild does what it does, that we listen when they have concerns, and that we correct our mistakes. I’m constantly impressed by the members of this Guild.
Finally, let’s talk about why the e-signed letter is mandatory rather than optional.
When the Guild takes action, we do so as a group. While we encourage members to communicate directly with their agents, we don’t ask an individual member to take a stand. We do it together. In addition to protecting you as an individual, the e-signed letters protect us all from any agency claim that our 95.3% vote wasn't real – that people voted one way and acted another. They are already suggesting that. What this action does is show each individual writer that they are not doing this alone. The instructions for filling out the letter can be found here.
This is our power, and it is at this moment that we need to show it.
David A. Goodman