For the first time since 2007, the WGA has ordered a work stoppage on all film and TV script writing, with pickets beginning this afternoon to protest wage and residual pay level inequalities exacerbated by the rise of streaming platforms.
For the first time in 15 years, the Writers Guild of America has gone on strike. With last night’s failed last-minute negotiations comes this morning’s guild directive to immediately stop all script writing by the WGA’s more than 11,000 union members.
“The decision was made following six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP),” the WGA stated. 98% of the guild membership – a historic margin - voted to grant strike authorization by their leaders if a deal on a new film and TV contract could not be reached.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the Guild announced that a work stoppage will begin on Tuesday afternoon after negotiations with the labor group representing studios and streamers faltered on Monday night. In LA, members will begin picketing at 1 p.m. PT on Tuesday at Amazon/Culver Studios, CBS Radford and CBS Television City, Disney’s Burbank headquarters, Netflix’s Hollywood plant and the Fox, Sony, Paramount, Warner Bros and Universal studio lots, among other locations. New York picketing will occur at Peacock’s Newfront at Center415 at 1 pm ET and Netflix’s Manhattan headquarters at 2:30 pm ET.
What’s at stake? The guild is pushing for higher minimum pay, bigger writing rooms, shorter exclusive contracts, and the big one… fundamental changes to residual pay, all issues that greatly impacted by the explosive rise in content streaming. And with streamer profits under siege as they struggle to grow “profits” after years of seemingly throwing money at any and all content in sight, this labor dispute could have a dramatic affect on the business.
According to the WGA, “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 Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, bargaining on behalf of studios and production companies, stated it presented an offer with “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.” It also noted that though it was prepared to improve its offer, it “was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon.”
Coming in the wake of recent studio layoffs and a sluggish economy overall, the strike comes at a rough time for the industry. With the two sides so far apart in their positions, expectations are low for an immediate compromise. The contentious 2007 writers strike lasted 100 days.
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.