WGA strike: Studio negotiations continue on final day of contract
Negotiations between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood studios continued Monday, the final day of the current contract. If no deal is reached, a strike could commence at midnight.
Writers Guild of America members voted from April 11-17 to approve a strike-authorization measure that authorizes the union to call for a strike once the current labor contract with Hollywood studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, expires May 1.
"A strike authorization vote has always been part of the WGA's plan, announced before the parties even exchanged proposals," according to the AMPTP. "Its inevitable ratification should come as no surprise to anyone. Our goal is, and continues to be, to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. An agreement is only possible if the guild is committed to turning its focus to serious bargaining by engaging in full discussions of the issues with the companies and searching for reasonable compromises."
According to the WGA, 97.8 percent of members who cast ballots supported the strike-authorization vote. A total of 9,218 union members cast ballots, representing nearly 79 percent of the WGA's membership.
The WGA last week issued what it calls "strike rules" in case a walkout is called. The instructions for union members essentially bar them from doing any writing for studios being struck, or conducting any negotiations on future writing projects. The rules also direct union members to honor all WGA picket lines, perform assigned "strike-support" duties and inform the union of any "strikebreaking activity."
Among the issues on the bargaining table -- the WGA is pushing for increases in pay and residuals, particularly over streaming content. The guild is specifically calling for higher residual pay for streaming programs that have higher viewership, rather than the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show's success. The union is also calling for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show.
Studios have pushed back on some union claims, noting that the entire industry is facing budget constraints and pointing to the thousands of layoffs currently underway at the Walt Disney Co. as a prime example. The studios also say writers' residuals have increased in recent years, powered largely by amounts earned through "new media."
"Writers are making 23 percent less than we were 10 years ago, while the companies are making record profits, and that's what we're looking to address," said WGA negotiating team committee member Adam Conover.
Conover compared the residuals made between movies debuted in theaters and streaming platforms.
"If you write a movie for theatrical, where they put it in the movie theaters," said Conover. "If you write the very same movie for streaming, you are paid far, far less in residuals -- and residuals are how writers make our year in between our jobs. A movie is a movie either way."
The WGA last went on strike in 2007-08, remaining off the job for 100 days and grinding Hollywood production to a halt. That strike was precipitated over compensation for what was then termed "new media," with Internet streaming beginning to reshape the entertainment landscape.
Various estimates from different organizations estimated that the 100-day strike cost the local economy between $2 billion and $3 billion.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Paramount Global, which owns CBS and KCAL News, is part of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. In addition, many KCAL News producers and writers are WGA members. However, they operate under a different contract and are not part of the current negotiations.
for more features.