Members of Hollywood writers union begin casting ballots in strike-authorization vote

City News Service
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Hollywood writers union members cast votes for strike authorization
Members of the Writers Guild of America began voting on whether to authorize the union to call a strike if labor talks with Hollywood studios break down.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Members of the Writers Guild of America began voting on whether to authorize the union to call a strike if labor talks with Hollywood studios break down.

The strike-authorization vote began online Tuesday and will continue through Monday. If union members vote in favor, the WGA will be authorized to call a strike once the current labor contract with the studios expires on May 1.

The vote does not automatically mean a strike will occur, and strike-authorization votes are a common tactic employed by unions during labor talks to pressure employers.

"The studios need to respond to the crisis writers face," the WGA stated on its Twitter page earlier this month in announcing plans for the vote. "WGA members must demonstrate our willingness to fight for the contract writers need and deserve by supporting a strike authorization vote."

The Writers Guild of America is asking members to authorize a strike as it continues talks with the Hollywood producers alliance.

Officials with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, issued a statement saying, "The AMPTP companies approach this negotiation and the ones to follow with the long-term health and stability of the industry as our priority. We are all partners in charting the future of our business together and fully committed to reaching a mutually beneficial deal with each of our bargaining partners. The goal is to keep production active so that all of us can continue working and continue to deliver to consumers the best entertainment product available in the world."

The WGA is pushing for increases in pay and residuals -- particularly over streaming content.

The union called for the strike-authorization vote just two weeks after negotiations began with the AMPTP.

The WGA last went on strike in 2007-08, remaining off the job for 100 days and grinding 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.

"A strike would have a quite devastating economic impact for the Los Angeles area," said Jonathan Handel, an entertainment attorney and journalist who spoke with Eyewitness News on Tuesday.

He said the latest contract discord is based on how studios have switched to shorter seasons with fewer writers. Also, how investors have pushed the studios into an era of cost-cutting and layoffs.

"They are dancing to a new tune in Wall Street that requires profitability, not just growth, and they find themselves in a very challenged position," said Handel. "Unfortunately, most of us are very pessimistic because of the strong forces at play and are anticipating there will be a strike."