After previously passing a strike authorization by overwhelming margins, the first WGA strike since 2007 has officially begun — here’s what you need to know.
On April 17, the Writers Guild of America announced that 97.85% of its members had approved a strike authorization, signaling that film and television writers’ ongoing labor standoff with Hollywood producers was nearing an untenable impasse. Key issues at play include residual pay in the streaming era, staff cutbacks in writers’ rooms, and ethical questions concerning the use of artificial intelligence.
At 12:01 a.m. ET on May 1, with no new labor agreement in place, the first WGA strike since 2007 officially began.
“Your WGA Negotiating Committee spent the last six weeks negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount, and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP),” read an official statement from the WGA dated May 1, 2023. “Though we negotiated intent on making a fair deal — and though your strike vote gave us the leverage to make some gains — the studios’ responses to our proposals have been wholly insufficient, given the existential crisis writers are facing.”
As the WGA strike announcement continued:
“Over the course of the negotiation, we explained how the companies’ business practices have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions. Our chief negotiator, as well as writers on the committee, made clear to the studios’ labor representatives that we are determined to achieve a new contract with fair pay that reflects the value of our contribution to company success and includes protections to ensure that writing survives as a sustainable profession.”
For what it’s worth, the AMPTP insisted in its own statement that it had offered a “generous” pay bump to writers. They had previously argued during negotiations that the WGA’s intent was always to strike and that those conversations were therefore not taking place in good faith.
This event now marks the first WGA strike since 2007, which began in November of that year and lasted more than three months. The guild notably approved a separate strike authorization as recently as 2017, only to come to terms with Hollywood producers in time to avoid an official work stoppage.
While a half-dozen years may not sound like a ton of time to you, massive industry changes in that time include the explosive growth of streaming platforms, the shortening of season-by-season episode orders across countless television networks, and the mounting implications of emerging technologies like generative AI.
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the WGA said. “[T]hey have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
So what happens now? A few things to know:
- Late night shows like NBC’s The Tonight Show and Late Night, CBS’ The Late Show, and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live are expected to halt production immediately
- It is unclear how daytime talk shows like ABC’s The View will be affected, if at all
- Variety shows like NBC’s Saturday Night Live may decide to shut down before its next scheduled show on May 6
- Scripted series may be forced to consider either scaling back episode orders or halting production
Stay tuned — and from this non-union writer to his striking brothers and sisters, stay strong.
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