Writers in Hollywood are going on strike for the first time in 15 years, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has announced.
The WGA West’s Board of Directors and WGA East’s Council voted unanimously to call a strike – the first since 2007 – according to a social media statement by WGA West. The strike is effective 12:01AM PDT, Tuesday May 2 (6PM May 2 BST).
The strike comes, WGA West said, after following six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Californian trade association the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
The Board of Directors of the @WGAwest and the Council of the @WGAeast, acting upon the authority granted to them by their memberships, have voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 AM, Tuesday, May 2.
— Writers Guild of America West (@WGAWest) May 2, 2023
“Though our Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing,” the WGA said. It will begin picketing the afternoon of May 2.
The WGA has also uploaded a document outlining the differences between proposals made by the writers’ union and offers from the AMPTP that have led to the strike. One notable proposal by the guild is a streaming residual that would factor in the success of shows, which the studios rejected. The guild’s proposal amounted to US$429million a year, while the studios counter-offered $86million a year.
Other proposals from the guild focus on pension and health contributions, staffing guarantees and regulations on Artificial Intelligence – all of which were rejected by the AMPTP.
On the topic of AI, the guild proposed that AI “can’t write or rewrite literary material,” and can’t be “used as source material.” The AMPTP rejected the proposal, offering to review the technology’s advancements every year.
In a statement obtained by Variety, the AMPTP said it “presented a comprehensive package proposal to the Guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals. The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon.”
The AMPTP noted that “primary sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing,’ and ‘duration of employment’”.
The strike – Hollywood’s first since 2007 – could see the shutdown of several major screen productions. Deadline has reported that late night talk shows – including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers – are all set to go dark starting May 2, with past episodes being re-run.
Other shows that could also face disruption by the strike include Saturday Night Live and weekly shows that rely on writers up until the last minute. This means TV shows or films that have already wrapped up production or have complete scripts will not be affected.
Seth Meyers, a “proud member of the Writers Guild”, said of the strike negotiations on Late Night today: “No one is entitled to a job in show business. But for those people who have a job, they are entitled to fair compensation. They are entitled to make a living. I think it’s a very reasonable demand that’s being set out by the guild. And I support those demands.”
Some actors and TV hosts present at the Met Gala that took place Monday night reacted to the possibility of a strike. Actress Amanda Seyfried told Variety: “I don’t get what the problem is. Everything changed with streaming, and everyone should be compensated for their work. It’s fucking easy. I don’t get it.”
— Variety (@Variety) May 2, 2023
Quinta Brunson – creator and star of Abbott Elementary – said at the Met Gala: “I’m a member of WGA and support WGA and getting what we need. No one wants a strike, but I hope that we’re able to rectify this – whatever that may mean.”
Jimmy Fallon – who is a member of the Writers Guild – said to Variety: “I hope there is no strike. I wouldn’t have a show without my writers and I support them all the way. They gotta have a fair contract and they have a lot of stuff to iron out, but hopefully they get it done.”
— Variety (@Variety) May 2, 2023
When asked if his show would “go dark” in the event of a strike, Fallon said: “Yeah, I think we’ll go dark. Whatever I can do to support the guild. I am actually in the Writers Guild as well. I couldn’t do the show without them and I support my whole staff.”