WGA West presidential candidate William Schmidt said in an email blast to the guild’s members Wednesday that he receives messages every day from “panicked writers who worry the WGA is coming after them” because they didn’t fire their agents or send the guild a e-notification that they’d done so.
His answer to them, he says, is always the same: “Follow Working Rule 23, as I have, and you will be fine.”
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Schmidt is the only WGA member to publicly defy the guild by refusing to fire his agent, claiming that the guild’s order violates the union’s constitution. He’s said he’s told his agent not to procure work or negotiate contracts for him until the ongoing battle with the Association of Talent Agents is over, and says that that’s enough to comply with the guild’s constitution and working rules. At last count, more than 7,000 writers have fired their agents who refused to sign the guild’s Code of Conduct.
Earlier this month, the WGA West revealed that it appointed a committee back in May to enforce its Working Rule 23, which prohibits members from being represented by non-signatory agencies – meaning that members who refused to fire their agents could be brought before disciplinary panels.
Schmidt’s message comes just hours before tonight’s Candidates Night forum, where board and officer candidates will make their final pitches before ballots are mailed on Thursday. Votes will be counted September 16.
Here’s the full text of his email:
Every day I get emails or messages on my website from panicked writers who worry the WGA is coming after them. I always answer the same way: follow Working Rule 23, as I have, and you will be fine.
‘But I didn’t sign the e-letter! I broke a rule!’
The demand from leadership to sign the e-letter was just that, a demand. Not a rule. There are ways to create or amend rules in the Constitution. Once the Board of Directors approves any changes, they are sent to membership for a yes or no vote. Leadership didn’t do that.
‘Isn’t the e-letter a strike rule?!’
No. This is a contract negotiation, not a strike, no matter how hard leadership tries to conflate the two. David A. Goodman (in a Aug. 1 email) says that under Article III, section 1, leadership can ‘interpret the Constitution…’ He’s right. But leadership actually has to interpret the Constitution, not make up new rules arbitrarily. Otherwise, why have a Constitution at all?”
Leadership gave us three reasons why we had to sign the e-letters:
1. To protect us legally in case of any commission dispute.
2. For solidarity.
3. ‘The agencies have begun to attempt to divide us by gas-lighting the town into thinking writers aren’t signing termination letters…this proves the agencies aren’t telling the truth’ (email from strike captain, 4/18/19).
We already proved our solidarity with the 95.3% vote. I’m sure the agents figured out we were serious when we told them, as I did mine, in a phone call followed up by an email, that we can’t work together until the ATA action ends. As to commissions, this could’ve been handled in legal letters from the Guild to the various agencies or even a press release.
The real purpose of the e-letter was to create a threat – against us.
Leadership desperately wanted Working Rule 23 to echo Working Rule 10, which is used during strikes:
Working Rule 10:
‘No member may enter into a contract for the rendition of writing services with any producer whose name is contained in the then current Guild unfair list unless such producer shall have first posted a bond with the Guild guaranteeing the full amount of the writer’s proposed compensation pursuant to such contract.
Violation of this Rule shall automatically subject the member to a fine, the maximum amount of which may not exceed 100% of his/her remuneration pursuant to such contract and the minimum amount of which shall be $250 or the applicable minimum, whichever is lower.
Leadership has claimed WR 23 contains punishment provisions like WR 10. But say it as many times as they want, it just ain’t so. Here’s Working Rule #23 in it’s entirety:
Working Rule 23:
‘No writer shall enter into a representation agreement whether oral or written, with any agent who has not entered into an agreement with the Guild covering minimum terms and conditions between agents and their writer clients.’
Why, then, is leadership spreading falsehoods about Working Rule 23? Why, in fact, demand we sign the e-letters at all?
Because leadership doesn’t trust its own members. Recently, it’s become clear why. Over the past four months, writers have continually asked what leadership’s end game is. Leadership has been vague but over the last couple weeks, during the membership meetings, their plan became clear: They want the Big Four to cave, of course, but barring that, it’s okay with leadership for the impasse to merge into an AMPTP strike. Then we’ll have even more power against the agents. After that, we can go after managers and entertainment lawyers and lower their percentages, too.
In short, leadership is made up of zealots, who need us all with them as they pursue their maximalist fantasies. They need a whip to keep us in line. The e-letter. Why else have it?
That’s why I say this election is not a referendum on the ATA action, but on our current leadership.
A final note. We are told leadership feels sad for the ‘casualties’ the ATA action has caused.
Imagine, then, the casualties if leadership wins the election and tries to obtain their true goals. Though all but the wealthy will suffer, the new/ young writers will get clobbered.
At the membership meetings I attended, I was impressed by the passion many of the young people expressed for the WGA, feelings many of us share. In showing their solidarity, they honor the thousands of writers who fought for pension, health, residuals, and much more over the years.
But there’s no reason to honor present leadership. They’ve brought nothing but chaos, confusion, and cries for vengeance. Honor those men and women who came before, who made our lives better through reasoned and intelligent negotiations: vote current leadership out.