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The Writers Guild is taking its first step toward a potential industry strike.
The union has set a strike authorization vote, with online polls opening April 11 at 8:30 p.m. and closing April 17 at 12 p.m., the guild announced to members on Monday. While a strike authorization vote does not ensure a writers strike will occur, it does gauge members’ willingness to cease work if the union deems a strike necessary. If a large portion of members supports a potential strike, that could improve writers’ leverage in their ongoing talks with the studios and streamers. As such, the guild was widely expected to call the vote at some point during a round of negotiations that many members consider pivotal for shoring up the future of their profession.
“The studios need to respond to the crisis writers face. WGA members must demonstrate our willingness to fight for the contract writers need and deserve by supporting a strike authorization vote,” the Writers Guild of America West explained in a statement shared to social media on Monday. In keeping with the guild’s messaging in this round of talks that the stakes are existential for writers, the union further alleged that “the survival of our profession is at stake” because “over the past decade, the companies embraced business practices that slashed our compensation and undermined our working conditions.”
WGA West negotiating committee member Luvh Rakhe (Dave, New Girl) called for members to attend upcoming meetings before and during the voting period in a separate video shared to the guild’s contract website. “We are asking for your ‘yes’ vote to support our shared goals in this negotiation, but we want to make sure that you are able to cast an informed ballot,” Rakhe said.
In the wake of the news, writers including Everything Everywhere All at Once co-director Daniel Kwan, Gordita Chronicles showrunner Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz, New Amsterdam executive producer Aaron Ginsburg and Koala Man creator Dan Hernandez publicly voiced their intention to vote “yes.” “We hoped it would not come to this, but we are not afraid to show the full strength of our collective power,” Ginsburg tweeted.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which bargains on behalf of studios, for comment.
A strike could only begin after the writers’ contract with the studios and streamers expires on May 1. The WGA has struck six times in its history and is generally considered the industry union that is most willing to walk in negotiations with employers. As such, rumors have been swirling in the industry for months that, due to the major changes that writers are seeking to implement this year, they will strike this spring.
In an interview with THR prior to negotiations, chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman responded to the widespread speculation, saying, “We’re going go into negotiations with the goal of making a deal, and it’s got to be a deal that addresses writer issues.” She added, “This is a union that’s willing to take action when necessary.”
The writers’ last strike occurred in 2007-08 amid a heated battle with studios over “new media” (which then meant distribution over the internet, iPods and cellphones). Lasting 100 days, the work stoppage cost the California economy an estimated $2.1 billion, according to the Milken Institute, and took a toll on writers’ compensation, overall deals and industry relationships. At the same time, many writers believe it was a crucial battle that gave WGA members an early foothold in “new media” platforms, which later contractually came to include streaming video on demand (SVOD).
Whether this year’s negotiations will produce such an impasse remains unclear. This time around, the guild is fighting first and foremost to significantly boost writers’ compensation in a streaming-dominated era, through higher wage floors, regulation of so-called “mini-rooms,” and standardizing compensation for screenwriting across theatrical and streaming distribution platforms, among other points. Employers and labor began negotiations March 20 and are currently in discussion on potential future bargaining dates. This new development may accelerate the conversation when both sides reconvene for joint discussions.
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