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WGA strike reaches day 100 with no end in sight

WGA strike reaches day 100 with no end in sight
WGA strike reaches day 100 with no end in sight 03:32

The Hollywood writers' strike reached its 100th day on Wednesday, with seemingly no end in sight as both sides remain on opposite ends of reaching an agreement. At midnight, it will become the longest strike in Writers Guild of America history.

WGA members first walked off the job back on May 2, and have since been seen picketing outside of major Hollywood studios as they continue to fight for a new contract that meets their demands for better pay, success-based residuals for streaming content and regulations regarding the use of artificial intelligence. 

Despite a brief glimmer of hope last week, when the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, asked WGA union leaders to meet and discuss the resumption of contract negotiations, no indication has been made towards an agreement being any nearer. 

Following the meeting, union negotiators sent an email to members that said both sides remained far apart on several key issues, namely residuals for content viewed on streaming services. They did say, however, that the studios appeared to be willing to increase some levels of compensation and that they were "willing to talk" about artificial intelligence use on projects. 

Related: WGA holds big rally and march at Pan Pacific Park as strike continues

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement on Friday while the meeting was ongoing, hoping that the sides could come to a "fair and equitable" resolution to resolve the strikes that have continued to "have profoundly negative impacts on our economy and many of our community members."

Her statement refers not only to the WGA strike, but also to the ongoing picketing from members of the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who are also fighting for a renewed contract with better benefits. 

"The impact has spanned every corner of Los Angeles — from the writers and actors on the picket line trying to make ends meet to keep a roof over their head and food on the table, to the businesses who rely on the entertainment industry," Bass' statement said. "The economic conditions of the entertainment industry are changing — and we must react and evolve to this challenge. It is critical that this gets resolved immediately so that Los Angeles gets back on track and I stand ready to personally engage with all the stakeholders in any way possible to help get this done."

Film Los Angeles reports that the amount of permits sought to film scripted content has experienced a drastic, but expected, decrease. 

Related: Actors back on picket lines amid renewed back-and-forth about labor talks

"Weekly permit count for Feature Films and Television projects is down by 57.6 percent (167 in 2023 vs. 394 in 2022), compared to the same week in the year prior," the non-profit organization said. "These are the categories into which all scripted projects fall, though not all production within these categories is affected by the labor action. Reality TV, as one example, still appears in these counts in addition to non-union independent films."

They also noted that there were zero requests for scripted TV series permits this week. 

Though Mayor Bass has expressed optimism that she believes a deal can soon be reached, the current strike bears a striking resemblance to the WGA's most recent strike, from November 2007 to February 2008. That lengthy walkout is estimated to have cost the local economy between $2 billion and $3 billion. 

Experts say that the current walkout, paired with that of the actors, is expected to be far worse. It's the first joint strike to hit Hollywood in the last 63 years after SAG-AFTRA members joined picket lines on July 14. 

Some predict that the current picketing could continue until January of 2024 with both sides at such opposite ends of an agreement. 

A message from WGA negotiators last Thursday called on writers to challenge the studios to abandon their "anti-union playbook and offer writers a fair deal. Studios responded by saying that their "only playbook is getting people back to work."

The union also commented on the studios' suggestions that the walkout has not had an extensive impact on their work due to stockpiled content held by streaming services. 

"This is calculated disinformation about the real impact of the ongoing strike," the WGA statement said, also warning AMPTP from repeating tactics used during the strike back in 2007-08, when they claimed there was an effort to "spread dissent" through the media. "We wont prejudge what's to come. But playbooks die hard. So far, the companies have wasted months on their same failed strategy. They have attempted, time and time again, through anonymous quotes in the media, to use scare tactics, rumors and lies to weaken our resolve."

In response, AMPTP issued a statement that says Friday's discussion with WGA was "to determine whether we have a willing bargaining partner. The WGA bargaining committee's rhetoric is unfortunate."

"This strike has hurt thousands of people in this industry, and we take that very seriously," the statement continued.

The WGA is seeking contract improvements on many fronts, most notably higher residual pay for streaming programs that garner large viewership numbers, replacing the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show's popularity. 

They are also calling for industry standards on the number of writers that are assigned to each show, increases in foreign streaming residuals and regulations that prevent the use of AI to writer or rewrite any associated literary material. 

AMPTP negotiators have pushed back against some of the writers' demands, mainly those calling for mandatory staffing and employment guarantees on programs. They've also thus far rejected demands for streaming residuals, claiming that their current requests would increase pay rates by 200%. 

Paramount Pictures, one of the studios involved in the negotiations, and CBS News and Stations are both part of Paramount Global. Also, some CBS News and Stations staff are SAG-AFTRA or Writers Guild members; though, their contracts are not affected by the strikes.

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