By Dave McNary@Variety_DMcN
Leaders of the Writers Guild of America West have given a four-year contract extension with a two-year option to exec director David Young, who organized the 2007-08 writers strike that rocked Hollywood.
In a strong endorsement of Young’s 12-year tenure, the WGA West board unanimously voted to extend the exec’s contract. WGA West president David A. Goodman confirmed the extension to Variety.
“David Young has done exceptional work,” Goodman said. “I know I speak for the board of directors and the membership that he will continue in that capacity.”
The extension and options lock in Young to head the 9,000-member guild for the next two rounds of successor negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which serves as the negotiating unit for the showbiz congloms and their production companies. The current three-year deal expires May 1, 2020.
Young led the negotiations a year ago for the successor contract with a deal being hammered out an hour before the contract expired. The WGA touted gains in short-order series compensation, family leave and shoring up the health plan.
The WGA West is currently in a battle with Hollywood’s top talent agencies over what’s perceived by the guild as potential conflicts of interest due to the agencies moving aggressively moving into production — meaning that the same company represents the creative talent on one side of the table and is the employer on the other.
The WGA told members on April 6 that it had sent the Association of Talent Agents a 12-month notice to terminate the existing deal, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement, and has asked for extensive changes in how agents do business. The terms and conditions of the current agreement will remain in effect through April 6, 2019, but will expire if a new agreement is not reached.
No meetings have been set and leaders of the agencies have privately expressed frustration over what they say is an unwillingness by the WGA to meet informally on the issue.
Young was given a five-year extension via unanimous vote in 2013. According to the guild’s latest LM-2 report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, Young was paid $573,032 for the reporting period ended March 31, 2017.
Young joined the WGA in 2004 as its organizing director and replaced John McLean on an interim basis in 2005 after the board fired McLean over disappointment with the failure to achieve a change in the DVD residual formula. Firing McLean portended a hardened bargaining position as then-president Patric Verrone promised the WGA would take a more assertive approach in negotiations and organizing.
Young lost the interim tag in 2006 as the sniping escalated between guild leaders and then-AMPTP chief Nick Counter and bargaining went nowhere. With the guild having prepped its members extensively, the WGA negotiating committee received a strike authorization of over 90% in October 2007 and the 100-day strike began in November after negotiations cratered on a variety of divisive issues such as how writers would be compensated for new-media work and for reuse of their work in digital platforms.
Young was widely credited for running a well-organized strike featuring extensive picketing and rallies that benefited from strong support by the Screen Actors Guild and the Teamsters. The work stoppage forced a halt to most TV series in the middle of a season. The strike ended after the WGA accepted in a deal in February 2008 with terms that were similar to those negotiated by the Directors Guild of America a few weeks earlier.
The extension had not been revealed to the membership but Goodman said Friday that the board had taken the vote several months earlier. The news was first reported by Deadline.
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