The entertainment industry is bracing itself for what could be the biggest work stoppage in 15 years, as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike enters its second week with no sign of any progress being made in labor talks.
Negotiations between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to yield a deal, resulting in hundreds of picketers walking strike lines throughout the day at major studios.
Local picketing has been conducted at Amazon Studio in Culver City, CBS’ Studio City lot, Television City, The Walt Disney Co.’s corporate headquarters in Burbank, the Fox Studios lot, Netflix’s Hollywood headquarters, Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Sony Studios in Culver City, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. in Burbank.
WGA officials say on the union’s website that writers “are facing the most comprehensive assault on compensation and working conditions that they have seen in a generation.”
The union is calling for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show, increases in foreign streaming residuals, and regulations preventing the use of artificial intelligence technology to write or rewrite any literary material.
Additionally, the WGA is pushing for higher residual pay for streaming programs that have higher viewership, rather than the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show’s success.
The last WGA strike lasted from November 2007 until February 2008, costing the local economy between $2 billion and $3 billion. With no new labor talks scheduled between the WGA and the AMPTP, some observers are saying the strike could last for months.
The AMPTP issued a position paper Thursday outlining its take on some key negotiating points in the labor impasse. Responding to a union demand for minimum staffing levels and employment guarantees, the alliance contends such a move would “require the employment of writers whether they’re needed for the creative process or not.”
The alliance also pushed back on the issue of streaming residuals, saying the union’s most recent contract gave writers a 46% increase in streaming residuals taking effect in 2022 — increases that some writers may only now be seeing in their paychecks. The alliance contends the union’s proposal would represent a 200% increase over current residual rates.
On Saturday, a group of showrunners met at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills, a day after Disney, HBO, Warner Bros. and several other studios sent letters saying they would be required to continue doing their non-writing duties during the strike — even if it means crossing WGA picket lines, according to multiple media reports.
The WGA’s contract negotiating committee has advised showrunners to stop doing their non-writing duties, which also includes promoting their shows and attending various industry events, until the strike is settled.
Although several who attended Saturday’s reportedly packed meeting described the studio letters as “scary,” they vowed to remain united. As the strike continues, the future of the entertainment industry remains uncertain.