WGA strike: Writers, studios return to bargaining table for 1st time since August

ByJory Rand and ABC7.com staff KABC logo
Thursday, September 21, 2023
Hollywood writers, studios return to bargaining table
Some union members are expressing guarded optimism that they are moving closer to a deal that could end the Hollywood writers strike.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Striking writers and Hollywood studios are returning to the bargaining table for the first time since August and some members are expressing guarded optimism that they are moving closer to a deal.

The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May, joined in July by the actors union, SAG-AFTRA.

The WGA and the studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, did not comment on how talks went Wednesday. But some reports indicate that they are closer to finalizing a deal that could end the writers' strike.

Negotiators met with the heads of four major studios - Ted Sarandos of Netflix, David Zaslav of Warner Bros. Discovery, Donna Langley of Universal Pictures, and Bob Iger, the CEO of ABC7's parent company Disney.

"That was some big heavyweights in the room," said Dominic Patten, who has been covering the strikes since the beginning for Deadline Hollywood.

He sees the presence of the big hitters as a sign that they realize that with Hollywood effectively shut down for a third of the year, it may mean some trouble in the near future.

"They're also aware that they're looking at maybe some very harsh 4th quarters if they don't get this resolved," said Patten. They could also lose the PR battle as well with public sentiment on the side of labor.

"They're seeing this drag on and they're seeing it seem like an endless stalemate of overpriced CEOs not talking to what everyone agrees is underpaid writers, and ultimately, as polls show us, a vast majority of Americans are supportive of the writers," said Patten.

While optimism abounds, one strike captain wants the public to watch with a critical eye, taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, to remind people that "very encouraging and incredible progress are exactly what the studios would say if they want to get people's hopes up and make the WGA look unreasonable for not taking a bad deal."

Writer Christina Piña was among dozens picketing outside Universal Studios Wednesday morning.

"The mood here is cautiously optimistic," she said. "We've been out here long enough that we just really hope to get the deal that we fought for."

The writers have already been on strike for four months and 18 days.

A WGA deal would not necessarily restart all film and TV productions, however, as the actors are conducting separate negotiations and it appears they remain far apart.

"We hope the studios are returning to the table with the intention of making real, substantial moves that can help the negotiations progress," a SAG-AFTRA spokesperson said Wednesday.

In the meantime, the writers are staying on the picket lines.

"It's been tough," Piña said. "It's been a long summer. We walked in Earth's greatest heat wave of all time, so shattered some records and I lost a lot of weight, but other than that I'm feeling pretty good."

One tactic by the union has been to try to put pressure on the studio alliance represented by the AMPTP. Union negotiators suggested earlier this month that some studios could break away from the industry group and strike their own contract deal directly with the union.

The AMPTP, however, insisted its alliance remains strong and that all members are committed to negotiating together for a resolution.