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Unions Unite: Hollywood Studios Face Reckoning During Labor Negotiations

Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

The Take

  • Since the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike began five weeks ago, the major Hollywood unions—representing writers, directors, actors, below-the-line workers, truck drivers, and more—have come together on picket lines.
  • Union support has halted many productions and led to massive rallies nationwide.
  • The Directors Guild of America (DGA) is negotiating with the AMPTP, while screen actors will begin talks next week. 
  • The actors are voting to authorize a strike if negotiations fall through, which could lead to a total work stoppage in Hollywood.

Since the Writers Guild of America went on strike five weeks ago today, Hollywood has been at a standstill with productions shutting down and the fall schedule for broadcast networks hoping for a quick resolution.

The picket lines and the looming threat of a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike are impacting film productions globally, proving the studios need a quick resolution so everyone can return to work. Studios are negotiating with directors and actors, but if they can’t reach a solution, a production and promotion work stoppage could hit Hollywood when the contracts expire on June 30.

Already, this strike feels different. The picket lines include more than striking writers: actors, directors, and below-the-line employees have been protesting unfair conditions and supporting the WGA in solidarity. And the Teamsters’ refusal to cross picket lines has led to many production shutdowns.

With the unions united since the first week of the writers’ strike, could this spell game over for the studios and Hollywood?

The unions come together

The WGA has the support of the other major Hollywood unions, including the Teamsters, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), Directors Guild of America, and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) against the major studios and their negotiating arm, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). 

The Teamsters represent more than 6,500 Hollywood workers—including truck drivers, prop warehousemen, and other workers on physical productions—and by promising not to cross picket lines, numerous shows have faced shutdowns and delays. Solidarity with the WGA from the Teamsters and IATSE, representing below-the-line crew members, has put pressure on studios and been a show of incredible force.

“We’ve been shutting down productions every day of the strike,” WGA President Meredith Stiehm told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s very visible what their support means.”

Suffice it to say, the unions coming together has brought a lot of Hollywood to a standstill, and it’s all on the backs of the first writers’ strike in 15 years.

Next year, the Teamsters and IATSE will renegotiate their contracts with studios. Local Teamster leader Lindsay Dougherty told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, “Everyone needs to be together on this, every worker in this industry, because nothing will change unless we fight.”

Recent union actions

Last week, Warner Bros. Discover launched the revamped streaming service Max and compiled film writers, directors, and producers under the new label “creators,” drawing the ire of the WGA and DGA in a joint statement and proving the unions have similar concerns.

“Warner Bros. Discovery’s unilateral move, without notice or consultation, to collapse Directors, Writers, Producers and others into a generic category of ‘creators’ in their new Max rollout while we are in negotiations with them is a grave insult to our members and our union,” DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter said in a joint statement with WGAW President Meredith Stiehm.

“This is a credits violation for starters,” Stiehm said. “But worse, it is disrespectful and insulting to the artists that make the films and TV shows that make their corporation billions.”

(Warner Bros. Discovery said it would fix the issue on Max, but it will take time. The AMPTP has not commented on contract negotiations.)

Meanwhile, actors have also been on the picket lines throughout the strike. Now, members of the Screen Actors Guild are voting on a strike authorization before negotiating with the AMPTP. Members have until June 5 to vote. (The Writers Guild held a similar vote during negotiations.) 

The directors guild began negotiations with the AMPTP on May 10. The screen actors will then negotiate with the AMPTP on June 7. Both the directors’ and actors’ contracts expire on June 30.

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