Writers Guild Edges Closer to Strike With Talks Suspended Until Next Week

Stephen Chernin/Getty
Scene from 2007-08 writers' strike

A one-week postponement will leave just five more days of talks before a threatened walkout.

Negotiations between the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers collapsed again Monday, with a joint announcement in the evening that said talks, expected to continue the next day, will instead resume a week from Tuesday — and just a week before expiration of the current contract.

The one line statement said simply, “The WGA and the AMPTP have agreed to resume negotiations on Tuesday, April 25, 2017,” but behind that anodyne announcement is a different reality: Beginning Tuesday, the WGA commences the process of obtaining a strike authorization from its members that will enable the union to walk out immediately after the May 1 expiration of the current contract, which the union has said it will do in the absence of an renewal agreement by then.

By the time talks resume, the WGA strike authorization vote will have concluded, and the union leadership in all likelihood will have received the authorization it seeks.

Union negotiators and leaders are evidently assuming that having that authorization in hand will enable them to force the studios and the AMPTP to cross a massive $350 million gap between the parties: The guild wants a $535 million package of basic wage increases, residuals enhancements, relief for struggling screen and TV writers and cash infusions into the benefit plans, while a THR analysis indicates the studios are looking to make a roughly $180 million deal, putting the guild’s demands at roughly triple the AMPTP’s likely figure.

Whether guild negotiators prove able to strong-arm the studios — a fraught exercise at best — may determine whether Hollywood sees its first major strike in the decade since the writers walked out in 2007-08.

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