The Writers Guild of America’s (WGA) East and West branches have called its first strike in 15 years starting at 12.01am PT on Tuesday, one minute after the expiry of the Guild’s outgoing minimum basic agreement.
Acting “upon the authority granted to them by their memberships” the WGA branches said picketing will start on Tuesday afternoon after six weeks of talks with content producers represented by Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to reach an agreement.
The AMPTP said on Monday night it had presented a “comprehensive package proposal” which included “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals”.
The Guild said the studios’ responses to its demands were “wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing” and has demanded increased compensation covering minimum pay, residuals on theatrical and streaming titles, and “mini-rooms”, as well as regulation of the use of content created by A.I., among other things.
The WGA added the rise of streaming has brought profits to the companies but left writers behind. The Guild issued a statement which said, “The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing.
“From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a “day rate” in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
The studios, streamers and networks have said they are faced with economic strictures and have been laying people off. Disney is currently laying off 7,000 employees. 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 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 Guild’s proposals on “mandatory writing” and “duration” are the main sticking points. These would require a company staff a show for a set period of time with a specific number of writers, regardless of whether The AMPTP will engage in discussions with WGA to break the logjam. The Guild will send information in the coming days to members who live elsewhere or who cannot attend.
The strike is the first by the WGA since the 100-day industrial action of 2007-08. The Guild will cease all work at 12:01am PT. The impact of the strike will be felt most immediately on TV. The networks will continue to air shows that have been completed but not yet broadcast. Shows that have wrapped but have not yet been broadcast will still be aired.
Non-scripted series such as news, sports, reality TV and interview-based talk shows do not fall under the WGA’s contract and will not be affected.
Studios and streamers have been stockpiling feature screenplays in anticipation of a strike. Productions with a locked script may proceed, although Guild writers will not be on set to make any adjustments to their scripts until the strike ends, by which time there could be a post-production logjam.
Independent films that require bonding will not be able to get bonded unless production has wrapped by June 30. Sales agents have told
they are continuing as normal and will present packages at the Cannes market later this month, although start dates are likely to be pushed back towards the end of this year or into 2025. The WGA may push back the opening of incomplete productions that were scheduled for later this year.
The prospect of a larger strike that involves the directors and actors guilds is more concerning for the business. Both the DGA, with a membership of approximately 19,000, and SAG-AFTRA, which has around 160,000 members will begin contract renewal talks soon. The DGA will begin its contract renewal talks on May 10. SAG-AFTRA, which has approximately 160,000 members, will follow on June 7.
Some producers want to shoot outside of the US. Producers may decide to work with non-Guild members, but they would be wary of upsetting the Hollywood Guilds. Producers may decide to work with non-Guild members, although they would be wary of further upsetting the Hollywood Guilds.Strike rules The WGA’s strike rules posted on its website appear below:
In the event of a strike, each WGAW and WGAE member is required to follow these strike rules. The rules are designed to help writers get the best contract possible. Strike rules should be read in full. Strict adherence by all Guild members leads to a more effective strike and ultimately a better MBA
The principle behind the rules is simple: you (or your agent or other representative acting on your behalf) may not meet or negotiate with a struck company; and you may not provide writing services, sell or option literary material to a struck company.
As explained in detail in the rules themselves, prohibited conduct includes:
Performance of writing services for or delivery of literary material to struck company; and
negotiations and discussions regarding present or future writing projects.
There are also certain notice requirements, including:[minimum basic agreement]notice to the companies to return writer-owned “spec” literary material; and
notice to your agent or other representative to discontinue conducting negotiations on your behalf.
There are rules related to picket lines and other strike support activity, including:
- honoring all Guild picket lines;
- performing assigned strike support duties; and
informing the Guild of strikebreaking activity.
- Finally, please note these features of the rules:
- Covered work
: The rules prohibit the performance of writing services for a struck company in connection with audiovisual or audio works intended for initial exhibition in any market covered by the MBA, including feature motion pictures, television and new media, as well as the option or sale of literary material for that purpose.
- : The rules apply to all animated series covered by a WGA contract. Writers wishing to provide writing services for fully animated theatrical features or television programs should consult WGA staff before performing any writing services. Members should assume that projects combining live action and animation are covered by the strike rules.
- Fiction Podcasts:
The rules apply to fiction podcasts covered by a WGA contract. Writers who wish to perform writing services for fiction podcasts are advised to consult with WGA staff to determine whether such writing is prohibited before performing, or contracting to perform, any writing services.
- Hyphenates: The rules prohibit hyphenates (members who are employed in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including the “(a) through (h)” functions.
- Excerpt from Rule 12 covering additional strike rules pertaining to writers also employed in additional capacities can be found here.
- Academy overhauls campaign promotion rules in response to controversies