Opponents of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) leadership in this month’s guild elections spoke out Saturday against “Vice” writer Adam McKay’s call for members to stand in solidarity behind the organization’s current board of directors.
“The WGA is a union,” McKay tweeted on Saturday. “The whole reason they call a ‘union’ a union is because our strength comes entirely from staying united. If members disagree that’s fine, but it should stay in house. Seems pretty basic but a few people seem to have forgotten.”
“There’s an internal democratic system within the union to debate, elect and decide,” he continued. “One of the ways big corporations destroyed many unions was by sewing public discord and lack of unity.”
The current WGA West leadership, led by co-President David A. Goodman, is currently trying to negotiate deals with smaller talent agencies on an individual basis. The main goal is to get the agencies to agree to not use packaging fees — payments from a studio to an agency for packaging actors, directors and other talent. So far, WGA has made deals with literary agency Verve and three agencies affiliated with the Association of Talent Agents (ATA).
But since negotiations between the guild and the ATA made little progress despite months of talks, the four largest agencies in Hollywood, who make approximately 90% of deals involving packaging fees — WME, CAA, UTA and ICM Partners — are now battling the WGA in a series of lawsuits.
“When [McKay] refers to ‘a few people,’ to be clear, he’s talking about me,” Nagy’s running mate Jason Fuchs, co-writer of “Wonder Woman,” said in a response posted to the opposition slate’s website. “He’s talking about all seven of my slate mates who have volunteered their time and energy to advocate for, to work on behalf of, to protect a Guild they dearly love.”
“And what Adam is saying to them, to me, to all of us is…Shut up,” Fuchs wrote. “Disagree! By all means, disagree, but just don’t do it too loudly. Propose a different strategy! Offer your contrary ideas, of course, but speak them in hushed tones […] I’m not a yeller, so, you won’t have to worry about me being too loud…I’m not so great at whispering either, especially when it comes to speaking my mind; to being true to my conscience.”
Fuchs argues that the WGA’s plan to work with smaller agencies isn’t pressuring the major agencies that actually do packaging fees. By encouraging writers to move to them, Fuchs said, it both causes lesser-known writers to become lesser priorities in those agencies and reduces the clout that writers have in comparison to other talent who are still represented by the biggest agencies in the industry.
“Current leadership is taking an all-or-nothing approach that precludes us from any deal at all. They are caught up in an ideological war, but ideas aren’t action and now, more than ever, action is what is required of our leaders. We will look realistically at market forces – not to compromise or concede – but to get the best deal possible for writers,” Fuchs said.
But Fuchs’ argument has been rebuked by McKay and other writers who have supported the current leadership.
“The union votes and whatever action is chosen should be supported publicly 100%,” McKay wrote. “Anyone publicly undermining that ‘unified’ action is acting against the union. It’s pretty simple. When people join a union they choose to unite under its collective position, so speaking against that position publicly kind of defeats the purpose, no?”
“Adam Ruins Everything” showrunner Adam Conover also refuted claims by Nagy’s slate that the current leadership is refusing to negotiate with the ATA, saying that talks “only stalled because the ATA categorically refused to address conflicts of interest,” and that “the opposing slate so far has not stated what alternative strategy would address this.”
And “The Wire” creator David Simon, arguably the most vocal opponent of packaging fees in the guild, decried showrunners like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, who signed a letter publicly demanding the current leadership change its agency negotiation strategy. Simon called the letter a “disgrace,” and noted that showrunners like Murphy who receive major development deals from studios benefit from the packaging fee system.
“Too many other development-deal showrunners are complicit in packaging because it serves their absolute self-interest, because they would prefer to keep the hundreds of thousands or millions in bribes that they would otherwise be paying as commissions, allowing those more dependent on the market-rate for writing to suffer in their stead,” he wrote in a Twitter thread.
“They are not being honorable, or honest, or above all, loyal to the union that brought us all to this dance.”