What Happens if Writers Fire Their Agents En Masse? WGA Has a Plan

WGA vs ATA - H - 2019

A combination of resources will get agent-less writers through staffing season and beyond, says the guild.

The Writers Guild of America on Tuesday unveiled details of its plan for April 7 — the day writers may be ordered to fire their agents en masse — asserting that a patchwork of online resources, managers, attorneys, replacement agents and writer-to-writer networking will enable writers to continue to find jobs and negotiate terms without their customary representatives, albeit with bumps in the road.

Nothing of this sort has ever been tried before, and some skeptics compare the abandonment of representatives to Brexit, with the implication that writers will come to rue the day. But the WGA expressed confidence in its plan.

“There will be difficult moments,” acknowledged the guild in a posted FAQ. “But our goal is to get through staffing season and whatever period of time it takes to make a fair deal with the agencies. Our industry will not grind to a halt. … Our ideas and our words will still have enormous value, and the work we all love to do will continue.”

In a dramatic new detail, the guild revealed that the union itself would help members fire their agents so that members don’t have to personally call up and do so themselves.

“If your agency doesn’t sign the Code of Conduct and is no longer able to represent members, you will not have to sever the relationship alone,” says the FAQ. “All you have to do is electronically sign a form terminating your representation agreement. The Guild will deliver the terminations to the agency in a group.”

Some writers have been with their agents for decades; others are newer to the relationship. Agency sources have suggested that some writers who fire their agents might never be welcomed back. The Association of Talent Agents did not immediately offer comment. The WGA and ATA were scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon in ongoing bargaining over a new agreement.

Meanwhile, five days of balloting begin Wednesday as the guild seeks member authorization to impose its new code of conduct. No organized large-scale opposition has emerged within the guild, although dissident showrunners did force a meeting last week with guild leadership, and several key showrunners did not sign on to a statement of support for the WGA position that featured an otherwise star-studded list of almost 800 writers.

In general, though, the guild seems unified, and a "yes" vote is considered a foregone conclusion, but observers will be watching the turnout and whether the affirmative vote is at least in the high 80 percent range, as is usual when leadership asks for an authorization and organized opposition is absent.

Regardless of the vote, if a deal is reached — which observers consider unlikely but not impossible — none of the guild’s contingency planning would take effect. More likely, though, writers will wake up on April 7 and have to decide whether to fire their agents.

For more on this subject, visit THR's labor page.