The writers strike of 2023 is about to begin.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is calling for a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) after the two sides failed to reach a deal on a new minimum bargaining agreement that is set to expire tonight, May 1. The strike will be effective at 12:01 AM PT on Tuesday, May 2, the guild announced in a tweet.
The guild “unanimously” rejected the final proposal from the AMPTP before the deadline and the board council unanimously voted to strike based on a proposal that the guild said amounted to turning writing into a “gig economy.”
“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,” the guild said in a statement Monday. “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 guild added in its tweet thread that picket lines will hit the streets on Tuesday afternoon. The writers are also scheduled to have a meeting hosted by WGA leadership at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
In a statement, the AMPTP said that negotiations concluded “without an agreement” late on Monday, with the sticking points being “mandatory staffing” and “duration of employment,” which it says are “Guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.”
“The AMPTP 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 AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon,” the studios said in a statement to IndieWire. “The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods. The AMPTP is willing to engage in discussions with the WGA in an effort to break this logjam.”
“Here is what all writers know: the companies have broken this business,” the WGA continued in a statement. “They have taken so much from the very people, the writers, who have made them wealthy. But what they cannot take from us is each other, our solidarity, our mutual commitment to save ourselves and this profession that we love. We had hoped to do this through reasonable conversation. Now we will do it through struggle. For the sake of our present and our future, we have been given no other choice.”
WGA’s more than 11,500 members will immediately cease any work on writing, developing, pitching, or selling scripts, and writers will inform their agents to return any spec scripts and to stop negotiating on their behalf. The guild last week released a long list of detailed rules about what writers cannot do during a strike and how to inform the guild of any strikebreaking activity.
As of Thursday, the studios put forth an offer on a new MBA, and the guild countered, and they’ve been meeting throughout the weekend up until the May 1 deadline. But the sides have been far apart since negotiations began back in late March, and a writers strike has seemed inevitable for weeks to many across town. The call for a strike comes after 97.78 percent of voting members authorized the guild to strike — an all-time record in terms of turnout and support.
Writers have demanded a living wage and believe the boom in streaming has devalued their work. The guild has further fought for more consistent residual payments and a revised formula for calculating residuals when it applies to streaming, regulation on the practice of so-called “mini-rooms,” and rules over what material the studios can use from AI-generated sources. The studios meanwhile are in the midst of layoffs, consolidation, and stalled growth in content spending, while recognizing the need to make their streaming services profitable rather than just chase subscribers. The studios will also soon begin negotiations with Hollywood’s other major guilds, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), both of whom have contracts expiring on June 30. Additionally, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has made clear that its members will not cross picket lines.
A writers strike was narrowly averted at the last minute back in 2017, but the last time the writers went on strike back in 2007, the work stoppage lasted for 100 days and stretched into February 2008. The town effectively shut down, with TV seasons delayed or cut short, and reports have estimated that Hollywood’s economy lost $2.1 billion as a result.
While it’s unclear how long a strike could last today, with more viewing options, the conditions today are not the same as they were in 2007, and studios are more prepared than ever should a strike be prolonged.