The western branch of the Writers Guild of America announced Friday that its longtime executive director, David Young, will depart the union at the end of his contract. Assistant executive director and WGA chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman, who led the union through all 148 days of the recent writers’ strike, will take his place.
In an email to WGA West members, the guild’s board of directors said that the union “owes David a great debt” for helping build it “into the fighting organization it is today.” The memo also hailed Stutzman for the “instrumental” role she played in ending the writers’ strike.
The announcement did not give a reason for Young’s exit, though he had lately experienced health issues. He was replaced by Stutzman as the WGA’s negotiating lead after being placed on medical leave in February.
Stutzman abruptly took over as chief negotiator in February — just weeks before the guild began talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on behalf of the industry’s 11,500 screenwriters.
The shakeup was jarring for many in Hollywood because Young was known for his tough negotiating style. He led the union during the 100-day WGA strike 16 years ago and its successful more recent campaign against talent agencies over packaging fees and affiliated production companies.
Also a veteran member of the union, Stutzman joined the WGA West as a research analyst in 2006 and was elevated to assistant executive director in 2018, overseeing the agency, contracts, legal, research and public policy departments of the union.
“As we say a grateful goodbye to David, and welcome Ellen to her new role, we look forward to building on our union’s accomplishments and continuing to do the important work of advancing the creative and economic interests of writers,” the board of directors said in its email to members.
The memo also included a statement from Young.
“It has been an honor to work with and for writers,” he said. “I’ve also been lucky to collaborate with the Guild’s staff, which is superb.”
Staff writer Meg James contributed to this report. This is a developing story.
This story originally appeared on LATimes