Members of Writers Guild of America to begin strike today after weeks of failed negotiations

The strike will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Hollywood writers to begin strike Tuesday after failed negotiations
Members of the Writers Guild of America will officially hit the picket lines after weeks of failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Members of the Writers Guild of America will officially hit the picket lines after weeks of failed negotiations with major studios.

The Writers Guild of America announced late Monday night that the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America West and Council of The Writers Guild of America East have voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Picketing will begin Tuesday afternoon, according to the WGA West.

"Though our Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios' responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing, the WGA West said in a statement.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, issued a statement at 7:54 p.m. reporting that negotiations concluded Monday without an agreement.

"The AMPTP presented a comprehensive package proposal to the guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals,'' the statement said.

"The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon. The primary sticking points are mandatory staffing and duration of employment, guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.

The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods. The AMPTP is willing to engage in discussions with the WGA in an effort to break this logjam.''

The strike will disrupt work on hundreds of movies, scripted television series and streaming productions.

WGA members voted overwhelmingly in April to authorize a strike if labor negotiations broke down. According to the WGA, 97.8% of members who cast ballots supported the strike-authorization vote. A total of 9,218 union members cast ballots, representing nearly 79% of the WGA's membership.

Dominic Patton with Deadline, whose broken stories on the negations, told Eyewitness News both sides are dug in.

"The differences between the guild and the studios are significant," he said. "Hundreds of millions of dollars that we're looking at and completely different attitudes towards stuff like AI, stuff that's almost completely insurmountable at this point."

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.

"I think it's going to be rough for us all, but it's completely necessary," said Noel Williams, a freelance editor of 20 years living in North Hollywood.

Various estimates from different organizations estimated that the 100-day strike cost the local economy between $2 billion and $3 billion.

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.

Late-night talk shows and some film sets will be impacted immediately.

A lengthy strike could mean writers rooms for scripted TV shows could shutter before the return of their fall season.

"All the people who provide services and goods to the film industry, vendors, they're going to have no one to sell to," said Patton. "So this is going to have a blast radius throughout Los Angeles County probably pretty quickly."

City News Service contributed to this report.