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Here’s What Has to Happen to Prevent a WGA Hollywood Writers Strike

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The go-ahead for a WGA strike follows a call to rethink compensation, residuals, and staffing — and production stands to be shut down across film and TV.

On Monday, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) passed a strike authorization with a 97.85% vote, a move that gives union leadership the power to begin a Hollywood writers strike after May 1 when its current labor deal expires. After the vote, the guild sent union members an email explaining that 78.79% of eligible members cast a ballot, with 9,020 individuals ultimately voting in favor.

The WGA threatened a strike in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over demands regarding writer compensation — specifically a sizable increase in guaranteed minimums — as well as other key sticking points like creating a more equitable formula for calculating residuals via streaming viewership and enhanced minimum staffing requirements for TV shows.

“These results set a new record for both participation and the percentage of support in a strike authorization vote,” the WGA said in an official statement. “Our membership has spoken. You have expressed your collective strength, solidarity, and demand for meaningful change in overwhelming numbers. Armed with this demonstration of unity and resolve, we will continue to work at the negotiating table to achieve a fair contract for all writers.”

As things stand, a new labor agreement could still be reached before May 1. If not, a strike would mean an abrupt halt to countless film and television projects across Hollywood.

The negotiation dispute began on March 20 when the guild made speeches but did not see much progression for the key issues at hand, which raised concerns about the negotiators not having enough time to reach a deal. The union and the did AMPTP meet on additional occasions over the past two weeks as the guild was already rallying its members’ support for the writers strike authorization.

In the beginning stages, the union identified ways to increase its negotiating leverage, with numerous members arguing that a higher percentage of votes in favor would increase the chances of a deal before the strike deadline. With nearly 98% ultimately voting in favor, the WGA is presenting a united front, crushing any possibility that the AMPTP or any outside party would be able to pit unionized writers against one another to get a leg up at the bargaining table.

This is notably not the first strike attempt for the WGA; it all started in 1988 after 97% voted for authorization and began a work stoppage that lasted 153 days, still a record for the guild. The next attempt would not occur until November of 2007 when 90.3% voted for a strike that continued for more than three months. In 2017, the guild voted 96.3% for a similar authorization but did not ultimately engage in a strike.

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On Monday morning, the AMPTP released a statement explaining that the outcome of the strike authorization vote was not surprising. “Our goal is, and continues to be, to reach a fair and reasonable agreement,” the alliance said, insisting that a strike authorization was the WGA’s intent all along even before either party put terms on the table.

With this procedural step now in place, the conversation pivots fully to hard numbers and assurances at the negotiating table.

Other key objectives in play for the WGA during these labor talks include:

  • Ensuring that any material gains made by WGA members aren’t offset by industry layoffs
  • Clearer ethical standards and a better system for pay regulation regarding the role of artificial intelligence technology in the scriptwriting process
  • Reforming the widespread use of exclusive contracts in an era marked by shorter TV seasons and more extended hiatuses between production runs that prevents many writers from being able to find outside work during their downtime

In the entertainment industry, the rallying cry is so often that the show must go on.

Start the clock: On May 1, we’re in danger of watching the curtain fall for the first time in 16 years.

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About The Author
Kenyatta Victoria
Kenyatta Victoria
Kenyatta Victoria is a cross-topic journalist specializing in music and culture reporting. She has words in the Essence Girls United, The TRiiBE, and Chicago Reader.