More than 11.000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike early Tuesday, a move that will bring an immediate halt to the production of many television shows and possibly delay the start of new seasons of others later this year. The strike comes amid a growing awareness of the challenges faced by writers in Hollywood, such as long working hours with little job security, and the rise of streaming services that has led to increased demand for content without necessarily improving the working conditions for those who create it.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) called its first work stoppage in 15 years after failing to reach an agreement for higher pay from major Hollywood studios. The last strike lasted 100 days and cost the California economy more than US$2 billion. “We have not reached an agreement with the studios and streamers. We will be on strike after the contract expires at midnight,” the WGA said in a statement.
“Your WGA Negotiating Committee spent the last six weeks negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (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,” the statement says.
“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. 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 text adds.
Negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP have been ongoing for several months, but the two sides have not been able to come to an agreement, even though AMPTP said late on Monday it had offered "generous increases in compensation" to writers.