May 23, 2024

David Young, the longtime executive director of the Writers Guild of America West, is stepping down, the guild announced on Friday.

Ellen Stutzman, who served as chief negotiator through its 148-day strike this year, will take over as executive director.

Young was initially expected to lead this year’s negotiations, but surprisingly took a medical leave in February, shortly before talks began.

“It has been an honor to work with and for writers,” Young said in a statement on Friday. “I’ve also been lucky to collaborate with the Guild’s staff, which is superb.”

Even though Young has been on leave since February, he was still consulting with the WGA behind the scenes, according to a source who spoke with him over the summer.

Several guild leaders issued statements in praise of Young’s tenure. Meredith Stiehm, the president of WGA West, called Young a “shrewd, creative strategist.” David Goodman, co-chair of the 2023 negotiating committee, credited him as a “mentor” to other guild leaders.

“Like all of us in this generation of Guild leadership, everything I know about using writer power to make writers’ lives better I learned from David Young,” said Chris Keyser, the other co-chair of the negotiating committee. “If we have become a kind of symbol of what a union – even a small union – can do, it is because of what David encouraged us to believe was possible.”

Young was named executive director of the guild in 2005. He served as chief negotiator during the 2007-08 writers strike, which lasted 100 days, and in every subsequent negotiation until this year.

When he was first hired, guild members had grown dissatisfied with the previous regime, which was seen as too accommodating toward the studios. Young lived up to his mandate to bring a more openly confrontational style to the bargaining table. He led the guild through its first strike in 20 years, which established jurisdiction over programming on the Internet.

The guild also nearly went on strike in 2017 over the changes in the business wrought by the rise of streaming. He also led the contentious two-year fight against the talent agencies to do away with the practice of packaging, which he and guild leadership saw as an unresolvable conflict of interest. The guild ultimately prevailed in that battle.

“Our membership owes David a great debt,” the guild told members in an email Friday. “His organizing experience and strategic acumen were essential to building the Guild into the fighting organization it is today.”

The guild said that Young would leave at the end of his contract. Young signed a four-year extension in 2018, which included a two-year option that ran into 2024. He earned $831,352 in the 2023 fiscal year.

Stutzman has been with the WGA West nearly as long as Young, since 2006. She led the guild’s research and public policy division before being named assistant executive director in 2018.

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