Thread Writers' Strike

WGA chief negotiator David Young replaced due to illness ahead of key talks with studios

Union organizer David Young
Chief negotiator David Young speaks at a Century City rally on day five of the Writers Guild of America strike in November 9, 2007.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

David Young, the veteran chief negotiator of the Writers Guild of America, has been placed on medical leave just weeks before critical talks with Hollywood studios are set to begin.

The union said in a statement to members Tuesday afternoon that Young, who is also the national executive director for WGA West, would be replaced by assistant Executive Director Ellen Stutzman, who would serve as lead negotiator for the upcoming bargaining round, according to an email viewed by The Times.

“Ellen has earned the confidence and full support of the WGAW Board, WGAE Council, and the WGA Negotiating Committee,” the union said. “She will lead a staff with decades of experience negotiating and enforcing the MBA, and organizing and mobilizing members to support the Guilds’ contract campaigns.”


A WGA West spokesman declined to comment.

The Writers Guild of America has asked its members to vote on a list of key proposals that will guide negotiations with the major studios in the spring.

Feb. 27, 2023

The surprise announcement comes at a key moment for the WGA, whose leadership asked members this week to vote on a series of bargaining goals that will guide negotiations set to begin March 20.

Studios and producers have been preparing for a possible strike over writers’ compensation in the age of streaming. Many have accelerated productions in a bid to complete writing before the union’s current three-year contract expires on May 1.

Young — who led the union during the 2007-08 strike that lasted 100 days — is known as a tough negotiator who is widely respected by the union’s membership. It’s unclear what effect his absence will have on the upcoming negotiations with studios.

“We know we speak for the entire WGAW and WGAE memberships in wishing David a full recovery,” the union said.

A former director of organizing, Young was tapped for his current role after guild directors fired former National Executive Director John McLean, a former CBS executive, in 2005.

Young has transformed the guild’s culture from a somewhat insular artists group to a more traditional, activist union focused on growing its base.