Almost 800 Writers Sign WGA "Statement of Support" in Agency Fight
The list includes many prominent showrunners and screenwriters — but many are missing as well, signaling a split in the guild.
Over 770 writers, including many top showrunners and screenwriters, have signed a WGA "Statement of Support" pledging to fire their agents if the representatives don’t sign on to an agreement satisfactory to the union, among other things. That could mean an en masse parting of the ways as early as April 7 if there is no negotiated settlement between the guild and the Association of Talent Agents in their dispute over packaging fees and affiliate production.
But as notable as some of the signatories are — Greg Berlanti, Jenji Kohan, Seth MacFarlane and Shonda Rhimes, for example — equally notable are some of those who didn’t sign: J.J. Abrams, Chuck Lorre, Ryan Murphy and Dick Wolf. Their absence signals a divided opinion among key power players on one of the most important issues to confront the guild in over a decade since the 2007-08 writers strike.
The WGA West and East combined have about 15,000 active members (and about 28,000 members in all), meaning that the statement garnered signatures from about five percent of the active membership, assuming it was limited to active members. A few thousand guild members work in non-entertainment areas such as news writing and may not be eligible to vote on the proposed code open for a vote on March 27-31.
The statement also appears to soften the guild’s position on packaging and production. The union has insisted that these practices are conflicts of interest and matters of principle as to which there is no compromise, but the statement says only a new agency agreement should "confront" these practices. It’s unknown whether that milder formulation will translate into flexibility in the bargaining room when the parties meet again on Tuesday.
The statement also elevates another issue that has emerged as contentious during the six days of negotiation the guild and ATA have held to date, namely the sharing of information. The statement says that agencies should "work with the Guild to protect writers’ interests by providing writer contracts, invoices and other information." Agencies have said that they will only do so with individual client’s consent, and assert that the guild’s true motive is to more effectively dun members for union dues, which are calculated in large part as a percentage of earnings.
Other signatories of the statement include Ilene Chaiken, Carlton Cuse, Barry Jenkins, David Koepp, Richard LaGravenese, Eric Roth and David Simon. Others not on the list include Alan Ball, Marc Cherry, the Duffer Brothers, Tom Fontana, Bill Lawrence, Steve Levitan, Adam Reed and Michael Seitzman.
Read the full statement here, and the signatory list below.
WGA Statement of Support
We are Voting YES
We are voting YES to support Guild implementation of an Agency Code of Conduct after the current AMBA expires on April 6th, if there is no negotiated settlement.
We agree a new agency agreement should:
Confront practices that constitute a conflict of interest: agency packaging fees and agencies functioning as producers.
Require the agencies to work with the Guild to protect writers’ interests by providing writer contracts, invoices and other information.
In accordance with Working Rule 23, we will only be represented as writers by agencies franchised by the Guild.
We commit to support our fellow Guild members following termination of the current agreement.
March 23, 2:00 p.m. Corrected to indicate that David Simon signed the statement.