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Writers Guild Begin Negotiations Before Possible Strike


The take

  • On Monday, March 20, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began contract negotiations with the ​​Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMTPT).
  • The negotiations will lead to a new three-year deal between writers and the studios or a strike that could shut down Hollywood productions worldwide.
  • Compensation for writers is the main discussion point for these negotiations.
  • The 2007–2008 writer’s guild strike lasted for three months and resulted in all scripted Hollywood shows shutting down production.

The WGA is beginning the first two weeks of collective bargaining with the AMPTP this week. Contract negotiations will last weeks and could lead to a writers strike that would shut down your favorite shows each week.

The guild is focused on writer compensation first and foremost, according to an interview with lead negotiators from the union.

Research from the WGA shows that almost half of all writers work for the lowest possible payment the union allows. Studios are paying the bare minimum to low-level writers, making it hard for them to afford a basic cost of living.

In addition, the median weeks worked have dropped significantly due to the rise of streaming television, which offers shorter episode orders than the typical Big Four network. (For example, NCIS has a 22-episode season, while 1883 consists of just 10 episodes. Both are produced and distributed by Paramount Global subsidiaries.)

The Writer’s Guild notes that studios and streaming companies use streaming to “underpay writers” and create “precarious, lower-paid models for writers’ work.”

As the guild starts negotiating, one big question is if there will be a writers strike. Many shows are starting work early to get ahead of a potential strike. But, the WGA noted, early renewals and stockpiling of scripts prove how much studios and networks need writers to produce content.

In a video released this morning, writer and member of the WGA negotiating committee, Kay Cannon, told members that the WGA will not be discussing negotiations “unless there is something of consequence to report” and that rumors or leaks will “likely coming from the studios and are intended to scare or distract you, and to undermine our strength at the table.”

A report on the status of negotiations will come out in two weeks, at the end of the first round of discussions. Any votes for WGA strike authorization would likely come after the report is released.

Background on guild negotiations with major studios

The AMPTP represents the major studios (Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, and Walt Disney Studios), Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC), and streaming services, Netflix, Apple TV+, and Amazon. The group is responsible for all industry-wide guild and union contract negotiations.

The WGA last negotiated with the AMPTP in 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (A tentative agreement was reached on July 1, 2020, after six weeks of remote discussions.)  The last writers strike was in 2007 and lasted for three months. All scripted Hollywood shows shut down production, and viewers turned to reality TV and YouTube instead of cable networks.

The writers guild is the first of the major unions to negotiate with AMPTP this time. DGA negotiations are next, followed by SAG. The DGA and WGA, like the WGA, are focused on wages and streaming residuals in their talks.

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