Writers Guild calls first strike in 16 years

(Picketers of the Writers Guild of America on strike at the Sony Pictures Entertainment studio. CREDIT: Shutterstock)

It’s going to happen. For the first time in 16 years, there will be a work stoppage by the writers. The WGA East and WGA West announced a strike beginning Tuesday morning at 12:01 am PST/2:00 am CST/3:00 am EST.

The Guild sent an email tonight informing its more than 11,000 members that no deal had been reached with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). “We have not reached an agreement with the studios and streamers. We will be on strike after the contract expires at midnight.”

Earlier in the night, the AMPTP said in a statement that the negotiations “concluded without an agreement.” In its explanation, the AMPTP said it “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 decision will have an immediate impact on late-night shows including The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Bill Mahr and SNL. WGA writers are counted on to provide up-to-the-minute content depending on the latest news developments.

If a work stoppage lasts for a longer period of time, the WGA has warned that it could set back the network TV season. Writers’ rooms typically staff and open in May and June.

Excerpts from the email sent to Guild members pleaded the Guild’s case against AMPTP:

“Over the course of the negotiation, we explained how the companies’ business practices have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions. Our chief negotiator, as well as writers on the committee, made clear to the studios’ labor representatives that we are determined to achieve a new contract with fair pay that reflects the value of our contribution to company success and includes protections to ensure that writing survives as a sustainable profession.”


“We advocated on behalf of members across all sectors: features, episodic television, and comedy-variety and other non-prime-time programsby giving them facts, concrete examples, and reasonable solutions. Guild members demonstrated collective resolve and support of the agenda with a 97.85% strike authorization.”

“Though we negotiated intent on making a fair deal – and though your strike vote gave us the leverage to make some gains – the studios’ responses to our proposals have been wholly insufficient, given the existential crisis writers are facing. 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.”

This development marks the culmination of months of industry chatter that the writers would force a labor stoppage after May 1. Led by WGA West assistant executive director Ellen Stutzman, negotiations for the agreement began on March 20 and were cut off by 8 p.m. PT tonight. Carol Lombardini is serving as the AMPTP’s chief negotiator. A position she has held since 2009.

The Guild has been seeking higher compensation for writers, higher wage floors across the board, standardizing fees for streaming and theatrical films, expanding span protection (which shields writers being compensated per episode from working for long periods on short-order series), regulating mini rooms and instituting a mandatory two “steps” (points of payment) for feature writers.

Meanwhile, the studios and streamers have been seeking to cut spending costs due to operations proving to be unprofitable. According to the Guild, WGA proposals would gain writers approximately $429 million per year. AMPTP’s offer is approximately $86 million per year, 48% of which is from the minimums increase.

The labor group has not announced where picketing will being but one can imagine there will be groups outside Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony. The WGA’s last strike, in 2007-2008, lasted 100 days, while its strike in 1988 lasted 153 days and its 1985 strike took 14 days.

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