“Could we cut a deal quickly that leaves all the problems in place and maybe gets a little bit around the edges?” he asks in his official statement seeking re-election, posted on the guild’s members-only election page. “Probably. Is that the right thing to do? I don’t think so, and I ask for your continuing support now that we’ve moved from the stage of making arguments to the stage of action, the stage of proving that we are strong enough to get a good deal, not a lousy deal.”
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“Will that require some compromise?” he asked. “Yes, as we’ve already shown. Will we get 100% of what we want? No. But we still have the ability and the power, if we have the courage, to get a good deal, despite the difficulty and some suffering on the part of writers.”
The guild in mid-April ordered its members to fire all their agents who refused to sign the WGA’s Code of Conduct, which now bans packaging fees after one year and prohibits agency affiliations with related production entities. The WGA and the ATA haven’t met face to face at the bargaining table since June 7.
Goodman, who also accused the agencies of lying during the negotiations, said that the current battle with the agencies will only make the WGA stronger when its leaders sit down with management’s AMPTP to negotiate a new film and TV contract next year. That contract expires on May 1, 2020. Goodman is running for re-election against opposition candidate Phyllis Nagy — who wants the guild to return to the bargaining table with the agencies.
Here is his official candidate’s statement:
“I was at a Guild mixer a couple of weeks ago and one of the writers I talked to had a painful story. She is a lower level writer with only a few credits, and, two weeks before the Guild instructed members to fire their agents, she had just signed with an agent at the Big Four. She felt that our agency campaign had a negative effect on her personally; she was not staffed during network staffing season and missed the help of her new agent. My conversations with writers about the disruptions they’ve faced because of our action have been the most difficult of my position. I told her that the difficulty with the current campaign, as with any guild campaign that requires sacrifice, is that if members feel that the sacrifice isn’t worth it, then we would have to fold.
“‘But don’t fold! You can’t fold!’ She said. She went on to tell me that the issues the leadership had raised were important and needed to be solved.
“It was a similar conversation that I’d had with many members over the last few months, especially newer, less established writers; they understood that our success depends on their willingness to make personal sacrifices for the greater good. That’s the heart of the union’s success.
“We’re in the middle of an historic and difficult campaign to change an entrenched system of agency conflict of interest. Thus, this has to dominate the discussion of my candidacy; this is not to minimize the other important work of the Guild.
“The Board began discussing this agency renegotiation five years ago, in the summer of 2014. We had just finished the 2014 MBA negotiation where we began to deal with burdensome option & exclusivity clauses that stopped writers from finding a new job while waiting a long time to see if their show would return.
Analyzing that negotiation, we realized that the traditional division of labor between the Guild and our agencies was no longer effectively defending writer interests.
“Our agencies were failing to defend writers not only from option & exclusivity clauses, which had always been their responsibility; they also seemed unable and indifferent to a number of other problems, almost all of which had been their responsibility for decades. These problems included a serious decline in writer over-scale pay in both features and TV, and increases in free work.
“The business was doing great, our agencies were doing great, and our middle class was being hollowed out. Our agencies did not take responsibility, nor even seem to care when we reached out to them to discuss the issues. And we know why: their wellbeing is to a great degree no longer connected to ours. They can and have made more while we’ve made less. After everything that has happened in this campaign, you now know why they are making more, and you know why some agencies resist at all cost what we’re trying to fix.
“The agency resistance shapes the differences of this struggle. When we take on the companies in MBA negotiations, we’re at most trying to get them to share less than 1% of their profits with us; we’re not trying to remake our relationship. In this agency campaign, the agencies’ resistance has been fierce, because a real solution requires big changes that the big 4 don’t want to make.
“But that doesn’t make our struggle senseless, nor hopeless.
“Here’s how I view it: for our demands to be realistic, the other side must be able to afford them, and most importantly, our power must merit what we are demanding. We’re in the part of the process where power matters most.
“Could we cut a deal quickly that leaves all the problems in place and maybe gets a little bit around the edges? Probably. Is that the right thing to do? I don’t think so, and I ask for your continuing support now that we’ve moved from the stage of making arguments to the stage of action, the stage of proving that we are strong enough to get a good deal, not a lousy deal.
“Will that require some compromise? Yes, as we’ve already shown. Will we get 100% of what we want? No. But we still have the ability and the power, if we have the courage, to get a good deal, despite the difficulty and some suffering on the part of writers.
“I am asking you to hold together, to be strong, to face the fact that this union struggle has no guaranteed victory. It is that uncertainty, always present, that we most fear at times. We do have alternative plans and possible fallbacks, but I don’t consider we’re at the point of switching to them.
“The leadership has faced disingenuous criticism for being unwilling to negotiate; every action we’ve taken in this campaign has demonstrated the opposite, our willingness to negotiate and, as of this writing, the deals we’ve negotiated with the agencies show that we’re willing to compromise. We have compromised on film packaging, information sharing, arbitration and a host of other issues. And, in all these negotiations we have been able to compromise without giving up on our goal to realign agency interests with ours.
“The Negotiating Committee did however determine that a deal couldn’t be reached through the ATA, only with individual agencies, and here’s one of the reasons why: The ATA said their agency members had NOTHING TO DO with their affiliated production companies, that therefore they couldn’t negotiate anything having to do with them, but that they were willing to help us make an appointment, and would give us their phone numbers.
“The agencies sat across from us and lied.
“Just think about that. This lie wasn’t said just to Guild staff, it was said to a group of writers, feature writers and television writers, by a group of agents, from agencies that used to represent us.
“The ATA wouldn’t accept the issues we’ve raised as being legitimate, one of which is that agencies owning production companies is an unacceptable conflict of interest that they need to address.
“If you accept the goals of this campaign, you cannot excuse this, you cannot blithely, naively believe that if we just got in a room with the ATA that we’d find a solution when they’re willing to lie about something that is so obviously untrue just to protect the status quo. And members know that agencies becoming producers is an existential threat to all writers, not just TV but film as well. It was John August who said to me “When your agent is your boss, you don’t have an agent.” (I used that in a speech and never gave him credit.)
“Just as importantly, it became clear that most of the agencies in the ATA were being held hostage to conflicted interests that only benefit the big 4 agencies. Outside of the ATA room, agencies have already recognized that a deal with the Guild is possible if they don’t have to protect other agencies whose interests they don’t completely share. That is not the only success of this campaign, as we’ve opened up serious questions about agency practices that will have to be answered.
“Meanwhile, we have an approaching MBA negotiation. How does this Agency campaign affect our leverage? It’s important to consider the current business landscape. All the major AMPTP companies are launching streaming services to compete with Netflix, Amazon, and Apple. As important as libraries are, the big companies can’t rely on their libraries to get subscribers; they need a steady stream of new product to build that base, and they need writers to write that product. It will take the AMPTP companies years to get to the subscriber numbers they need, and they will not just be competing with the established streaming companies but also with each other to get those subscribers.
“And though companies like Netflix and Apple have to adhere to the MBA if they want to use Guild writers, those companies are not represented in the AMPTP negotiations. The AMPTP companies understand that, if they pushed us to a strike, the threat that Netflix or another company would make an interim deal and keep producing new product is very real. The billions that the AMPTP companies have invested in their new streaming services would be at risk. That doesn’t mean that the AMPTP is going to roll over, but they have too much at stake to just push us around because they think we’re ‘tired.’ On top of that, we have shown that we are willing to take on an issue that everyone in the business (except the agencies) hates, but was unwilling to do anything about. The writers of the WGA have once again shown bravery and sacrifice, and that will give the AMPTP pause; it was this pause that led to the success of the 2014 and 2017 negotiations.
“For these reasons, whatever leadership decides our agenda is, we will go into negotiations in a very strong position. And as far as threatening our ‘alliance’ with agencies, I’ve been involved in four WGA MBA negotiations, and in all of them the agencies offered no help, in fact abandoned us and worked against our goals by describing us to their clients as intractable and unrealistic.
“I’ve been on the Board of Directors since 2006, and win or lose this is my last campaign. It’s enough that I’ve been a part of some very successful efforts on behalf of writers, including the current one. I have plenty of worries and sleepless nights, but on balance I continue to believe in what we’re doing. I hope you do too.
The accomplishment I take most pride in are the other members of the Board who I’ve encouraged to run. This is especially true for incumbents Nicole Yorkin, Meredith Stiehm, Luvh Rakhe and Angelina Burnett, and officer candidates Marjorie David and Michele Mulroney. These are the people who work tirelessly, with intelligence and empathy, for all the writers in the Guild. They do this work without credit or fanfare; they know this job rarely gets you your picture in the NY Times, and can get you brutally insulted by strangers on social media. And they know this job isn’t just about the agency campaign. It’s also about the next MBA negotiation and a thousand other issues that crop up along the way. And they’re willing to fight, not just for what we need, not just for what we deserve, but to keep what we have.
“Anyone who tells you that the Guild never has to fight is either intentionally or unintentionally not being truthful; the history of our union proves otherwise. Everything we’ve gained we got through a struggle or the threat of one. If we’re not willing to fight, everything we have can go away tomorrow.
“I know from experience that the writers in this union are willing to pursue difficult strategies. You, the membership, understand the necessity of sacrifice to effect necessary change, and thus avoid disaster; think about what would’ve happened if we’d rolled over in 2008 and not gotten coverage of the internet. This is the same kind of moment, a turning point where, if we don’t address this problem, if agency interests aren’t realigned with our interests, writers’ careers will be irreparably harmed. But before taking this on, we in the leadership listened to the membership, and our success is still dependent entirely on the writers of the WGA. You will tell the leadership what you want, how far you want to go, how much you’re willing to sacrifice. And if re-elected, I will listen, as I always have.”