A federal judge has denied William Morris Endeavor’s injunction request to force the Writers Guild of America to allow it to represent writers again, shutting down one avenue by the agency to end a 20-month walkout by writers as negotiations over packaging fees and ownership of Endeavor Content continues to stall.
Judge Andre Birotte Jr., who has overseen much of the legal conflict between the WGA and major Hollywood agencies over the past year and a half, said that the court did not have the authority to issue an injunction due to the Norris-LaGuardia act, which states that “No court shall have jurisdiction to issue any injunction in a case involving or growing out of a labor dispute except in a strict conformity” with the act’s requirements. Birotte also says that WME have proof that “unlawful acts” that would allow such an injunction to be placed had been committed.
“Defendants’ group boycott against Plaintiff has not involved unlawful acts or substantial and irreparable injury to property,” Birotte wrote. “The Court is persuaded by other courts which have found that ‘unlawful acts’ as is required by section 7 is limited to acts of ‘violence, intimidation, threats, vandalism, breaches of the peace and criminal acts.’ “
The decision leaves WME as the only major agency left in Hollywood that does not have authorization by the WGA to represent writers. Other agencies, including CAA and UTA, have signed a franchise agreement that allows them to represent writers again and requires them to phase out packaging fees — long seen as a conflict of interest by the WGA — by June 2022. Agencies and their private equity owners must also agree not to hold more than 20% of combined ownership in an affiliate production company, with CAA agreeing to place its ownership of affiliate company Wiip in a blind trust until that ownership is sold down to the allowed amount.
Endeavor Content, WME’s affiliate studio, has been the major sticking point preventing WME and WGA from reaching a deal. WME sent a proposal to WGA earlier this month and offered to meet during the holidays to reach a deal, but the Writers Guild in a memo sent Tuesday said that the terms of the proposal did not address “conflicts of interest” the agency had with the studio and insisted that the agency agree to the terms that CAA signed.
WME decried the response on Wednesday, saying that they discovered about the proposal rejection through the media and that the Guild has not made any contact with the agency to arrange a negotiation meeting since the proposal was sent.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.