WGA President Vows to Ensure Writers Are ‘Fairly Compensated’ During 2020 Talks

Writers Guild’s current agreement with Hollywood studios expires May 1

David Goodman WGA West
David A. Goodman (WGA West)

In his latest letter to members, Writers Guild of America West President David A. Goodman discussed the upcoming talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) next summer and vowed to make improved writer compensation a core issue at the negotiating table.

“While record numbers of members are currently employed, individual writer compensation is not where it should be, with too many members working at or close to minimum,” Goodman wrote in a letter cosigned by Vice President Marjorie David and Secretary-Treasurer Michelle Mulroney.

“Our MBA focus must be to ensure that writers are being fairly compensated for the global value of the content that has continued to bring banner profits to our employers, and that our benefit plans remain healthy.”

The current three-year Minimum Basic Agreement between the WGA and AMPTP expires on May 1. In the coming months, the guild will send their “pattern of demands” to members for approval before heading to the negotiating table, where writer pay and royalties for the rising number of movies and shows for streaming services are expected to be the main issue. WGA West Executive Director David Young, who oversaw talks during the 2007 writers’ strike, will serve once again as head of the negotiating team.

Goodman’s messages to his members have become a major source of Hollywood news in 2019 as the WGA received approval from an overwhelming majority of its members to enforce new rules requiring talent agencies to give up packaging fees — payments made from a studio to agents in exchange for packaging talent for a project — in order to represent writers. While thousands of writers have terminated their representation to push the issue, the WGA has made agreements with smaller agencies to sunset packaging fees while engaging in a long legal battle with top agencies like WME in order to get a judge to rule that packaging fees are illegal.

While Goodman continues to publicly speak out against the lagging increase in writer overscale pay even as streaming brings in billions for Hollywood studios, his latest letter did have some good news, reporting peak levels in membership employment.

“Television employment remains at its highest level in history: there have been more than 4,500 members working in TV for the last five years and counting, now approaching 5,000, with more than 350 scripted series in production for each of the last three seasons.”