WGA Negotiations Slow as SAG-AFTRA Sets Talks for Mid-May

Writers Guild of America  -picket sign 2008 - Getty-H 2017
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Strike odds are 50-50, observers say, but, walkout or not, SAG-AFTRA — which supports the WGA — will begin bargaining next month.

With talks between the Writers Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers scheduled to continue Friday, progress since bargaining resumed Tuesday has been tentative and uncertain. However, the WGA has made proposals on a number of open issues, and management is likely planning to respond, but further details were unavailable.

With the contract expiring Monday night (Tuesday at 12:01 a.m.), it’s likely the parties will meet over the weekend in an attempt to avert a walkout. A strike is still very much a possibility, but so is a deal.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations with the AMPTP are set to start in mid-May, in advance of a June 30 contract expiration. That scheduling could be awkward if there's a writers strike, with SAG-AFTRA negotiating while its sister guild pounds the pavement — perhaps even including the pavement outside the bargaining rooms at the Sherman Oaks, Calif., headquarters of the AMPTP.

SAG-AFTRA, the WGA and the AMPTP had no comment.

Earlier in the day, the NFL Players Association sent a letter to AMPTP president and chief negotiator Carol Lombardini supporting the writers. (Coincidentally, former SAG national executive director Doug Allen, 2007-2009, had previously served as an NFLPA executive for many years.)

The letter said in part that the NFLPA was “proud to support the Writers Guild of America” and added, “We write to urge the AMPTP to negotiate in good faith towards a fair and equitable collective bargaining agreement that reflects the hard work of thousands of writers.”

But industry observers remain profoundly unsure whether those negotiations will lead to a deal before May 2, at which point the WGA has said it will strike absent of an agreement. Chicago entertainment lawyer Jerry Glover of Leavens, Strand & Glover, who represents producers, puts the odds at 50-50 and adds, “[WGA] members are losing out on income. I think they’re willing to walk.”

Other observers too are at 50-50 or “who can tell?” Meanwhile, with a 96.3 percent yes vote on strike authorization, the writers appear united, and showrunners (here), negotiators and rank and file members (here) who have spoken out are uniformly in favor of hanging tough. And so, the industry watches, waits and prepares — for a strike that may not come or a deal that might.