The Writers Guild of America (WGA) recently voted to give strike authorization. This means that film and TV productions could stop if negotiations with major studios don’t lead to a good deal. The vote, which involved thousands of WGA members, gives the union’s leaders the power to call a strike if they think it’s necessary.
The WGA is taking this step because it wants to make sure that its members, who make some of the most popular content in the entertainment industry, get better pay, benefits, and working conditions.
Writers Guild Votes to Authorize Strike
The Writers Guild of America moved closer to a potential work stoppage on Monday thanks to a strong showing of support from members, which would disrupt Hollywood production and have an impact on Southern California’s economy. On 9,218 ballots cast, 98% of WGA members chose to authorize a strike, giving union leaders the power to call a walkout if they are unable to reach an agreement on a new contract for film and television.
The WGA issued a statement to its members saying,
“You have expressed your collective strength, solidarity, and the demand for meaningful change in overwhelming numbers.” “We will continue to work at the negotiating table to achieve a fair contract for all writers, armed with this demonstration of unity and resolve,” the statement read.
About 11,500 members are covered by the present three-year contract, which expires on May 1. The vote, which took place from April 11 to 17, puts even more pressure on the already contentious pay and contract talks between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The resounding endorsement is probably going to give union leaders more clout in contract talks that haven’t made much headway thus far.
Much of the labor conflict has been sparked by the radical transformation of the TV industry brought on by the emergence of streaming platforms. The package of pay increases sought by writers is estimated to be worth close to $600 million. Along with higher contributions to the union’s health and pension plans, this also includes higher minimum wages and streaming residual payments.
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Citing a WGA report, writers contend that their median pay has decreased over the past ten years despite the streaming boom. The fact that major studios like Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros., Discovery, and Netflix are under their own financial pressure to cut costs in the face of rising debt levels, a reevaluation of the streaming industry, and a potential recession complicate matters.
The producer’s alliance claimed in a statement that the approval vote was expected. According to spokesman Scott Rowe, “Our goal is, and will always be, to reach a fair and reasonable agreement.” “An agreement is only possible if the Guild is committed to shifting its focus to serious bargaining by having full discussions of the issues with the companies and looking for fair compromises,” the Guild stated in its statement.
On April 14, the producer’s alliance and the WGA sent representatives back to the negotiating table. According to the WGA, if they are unable to reach an agreement, WGA leaders could approve a walkout as early as May 2 at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time.
“We sense a very high likelihood of a strike beginning in early May 2023,” said Rich Greenfield, a co-founder of New York-based LightShed Partners, a company that conducts research on media and technology.
“The television industry has undergone a significant change, making it difficult to easily reset economics between the WGA/AMPTP.”
The guild hasn’t voted on a strike authorization since 2017; however, in that year, the two parties were able to come to an agreement to avoid a work stoppage. The WGA previously staged a walkout in 2007 that lasted 100 days and put a stop to a large portion of Hollywood production. 90% of members at the time voted to authorize a strike.
The ability of writers to make a living in the streaming era has allegedly been steadily eroded by a number of practices that they are attempting to address. One instance is the use of “mini-rooms,” or small teams of writers, who take on the task of developing episodes of a new TV show before a studio gives it the go-ahead. The union claims that these have caused the erosion of pay.
the Los Angeles area The showrunner of HBO Max’s comedy series “Gordita Chronicles,” Brigitte Muoz-Liebowitz, 38, said it was simple to vote “yes” in favor of a potential strike. As a showrunner who oversaw a pre-greenlight mini-room, Muoz-Liebowitz claimed to have witnessed the decline in writer pay firsthand. People who have been employed for a very long time now make much less money than they ever have.
She hopes that the vote will signal to the studios that writers are determined to strike in order to preserve the future of their industry.
“If the studios aren’t willing to give us a deal that will fix the problems that we’ve identified, sometimes a labor action like that is the only option we have,” Muoz-Liebowitz said. Nobody wants to strike; doing so is a last resort.
Financial hardship for writers as well as cast and crew impacted by production halts would undoubtedly result from a strike. Zoe Marshall, a 30-year-old TV and movie writer from Los Angeles, has been contributing since 2018 to a number of shows, including “Charmed” on the CW.
The WGA board member revealed that she is still repaying student loans from film school totaling nearly $250,000. Marshall, who provides financial support for a large family, recently wed a TV show composer, but they have postponed going on honeymoon in case of a work stoppage. Marshall affirmed that she was firmly in favor of the strike authorization.
“The cost of living in Los Angeles is the highest it’s ever been, the cost of an education is the highest it’s ever been, and the nature of this business and how we’re compensated requires me to ration out my checks over these extended periods of time,” Marshall claimed. The studios are reporting record profits while spending more than necessary to create the work that we toiled so arduously to create. It is unquestionably unfair and improper.