August, a member of the WGA’s negotiating committee, addressed the issue Monday on his blog with the post titled “The Myth of ‘No Negotiations.’”
“In that spirit, I want to address a pernicious myth that’s being amplified by some of the candidates running for office this cycle: that the WGA refuses to negotiate,” he wrote. “I hear this idea repeated so often that some very smart friends have stopped questioning the premise. It’s become a straw man, a false argument set up just to be knocked down.
August cited arguments by WGA West presidential candidates Phyllis Nagy and William Schmidt contending that the WGA is refusing to negotiate. WGA West President David Goodman declared on June 20 that the guild would no long negotiate with the Association of Talent Agencies and instead hold individual negotiations with nine agencies. One of those nine, Kaplan Stahler, subsequently signed a deal in which the agency agreed that it would not take packaging fees or engage in affiliate production.
“The solution these candidates offer is so reasonable as to seem obvious: just start negotiating!” August said. “The reality is that the WGA has never refused to negotiate. In fact, it never stopped negotiating.”
August said he was part of those negotiations, adding, “In the past month, the first of those nine agencies (Kaplan Stahler) broke from the ATA and signed a new negotiated agreement. I stress negotiated because members of the negotiating committee — including me — spent hours discussing and debating which compromises made sense, both for this deal and going forward. Since then, the Buchwald Agency signed a deal, as did a new agency formed by leading agents who left Abrams.”
August said that in each case, the negotiations were quiet. “The town didn’t know they were happening until the results were announced,” he added.
The WGA West elections will serve as a referendum on the WGA’s hard-nosed approach. Election results will be announced on Sept. 16.