Agencies Say Writers Guild "Not Interested in Making a Deal," Signaling Escalation of Dispute

Writers Guild WGA ATA Agents - H - 2019

But the WGA now says it will respond to the agents’ proposal “this week.”

Eleven days after the Association of Talent Agents and Writers Guild of America last met and with apparently no response to the agents’ last proposal, the ATA on Tuesday issued a statement concluding that it has "become clear as more days pass that the Guild is not interested in making a deal.”

At the last bargaining session, the ATA more than doubled their proposed sharing of packaging fees. The WGA asked to see proposed contract language implementing that proposal — but has repeatedly said that it wants to end packaging altogether, not split the fees. Now the ATA is signaling that it may take a more aggressive tack.

“Over the past year, [ATA] members … have done everything possible to engage the WGA leadership in dialogue and negotiation, only to be met at nearly every turn with demands for capitulation rather than negotiation,” said the statement from the ATA negotiating committee, composed of leaders of APA, CAA, Gersh, ICM, Kaplan-Stahler, Paradigm, UTA and WME.

“Moving forward, we will pursue a course that defends and protects our employees and maintains writers’ ability to choose the agents, agencies and business models that are best for them,” continued the statement.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, the guild replied, “The WGA plans to respond to the ATA proposal this week.” According to the ATA statement, the guild had promised to respond last week.

The ATA did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on its strategy going forward. In general, the guild’s rhetoric has been blistering, at times labeling the agencies as racketeers, while the agencies’ arguments have been more restrained. In addition to ordering most writers to fire their agents 10 weeks ago, the WGA and eight writers sued WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners in California court.

Most recently, CAA responded to the lawsuit with a filing that labeled several of the claims “preposterous,” in light of the writers’ alleged prior consent to packaging fees evidenced by budget sign-offs and, in one case, a settlement agreement. The CAA response also seeks to have the WGA dismissed from the suit for lack of standing. The three other defendants have yet to file a response.

Crucially, though, CAA did not file any counterclaims against the WGA. Now, though, CAA, all four large agencies or the ATA itself might decide to file a separate lawsuit against the guild. That would likely be in federal court and could allege that the guild has exceeded the bounds of the antitrust exemption that allows it to regulate talent agencies.

Meanwhile, writers used online resources, personal networking and managers and lawyers as a substitute for agents during broadcast staffing season, now underway, and that seems to be the mode for the June-August development season, as well.