Hollywood is at a standstill as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike, leading to the halt of film and TV production across the city. The strike commenced after the union leaders from both West Coast and East Coast branches announced on Monday that the contract talks with the studios had broken down again. The contract expired at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, and the union officially went on strike.
Picketers were seen outside numerous studios, including Amazon, CBS, Disney, Fox, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros. The strike will disrupt work on hundreds of movies, scripted television series, late-night talk shows, and streaming productions. Late-night talk shows, including Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, are expected to go dark. NBC’s Saturday Night Live could also quickly fall victim to the strike.
Earlier this month, WGA members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if labor negotiations broke down. The results showed that 97.8% of members who cast ballots supported the strike-authorization vote. A total of 9,218 union members cast ballots, representing nearly 79% of the WGA’s membership.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, issued a statement before the voting results were even announced, saying the approval was “inevitable” and urging continued talks to avert a work stoppage.
The WGA has issued “strike rules” in case a walkout is called. The instructions for union members essentially bar them from doing any writing for studios being struck or conducting any negotiations on future writing projects. The rules also direct union members to honor all WGA picket lines, perform assigned “strike-support” duties, and inform the union of any “strikebreaking activity.”
Among the issues on the bargaining table, the WGA is pushing for increases in pay and residuals, particularly over streaming content. The guild is specifically calling for higher residual pay for streaming programs that have higher viewership. The union is also calling for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show.
Studios have pushed back on some union claims, pointing to the budget constraints that the entire industry is facing and the thousands of layoffs currently underway at the Walt Disney Co. as a prime example. The studios also say writers’ residuals have increased in recent years, powered largely by amounts earned through “new media.” However, the WGA is not backing down and is determined to achieve a fair contract for all writers, indicating that this strike could be a long one.