In a significant development that might hasten the end of a record, 146-day writers’ strike, the Writers Guild of America and the labor union representing studios and streamers have struck a tentative agreement on a new contract. On Sunday night, the Writers Guild of America informed the strike commanders by email.
After studios complied with last-minute union requests on Sunday, the parties reached a preliminary three-year deal that will need to be endorsed by WGA members in order to go into force. As of the time of publication, the deal’s specifics, which affect some 11,500 WGA members, weren’t known, but they will surely become clear over the coming days as the union works to sell the agreement to its members.
On Friday’s crowded picket lines, writers were in a cautiously optimistic mood as union members believed that the historic work stoppage may soon come to an end. The showrunner Marc Guggenheim told The Hollywood Reporter at Disney, “The fact that they’ve been talking for three days straight is amazing. As management made headway on problems like A.I., TV personnel, and residual compensation connected to streaming program performance over the previous few days, studio-side insiders knowledgeable about the developments in the room likewise projected optimism.
This upbeat feeling began to fade on Thursday night, according to studio sources, when the WGA allegedly returned late into the evening with fresh demands on matters that management thought were already settled.
The recent progress in discussions was a welcome difference from the month-long deadlock that followed a meeting between WGA officials and many CEOs, as well as AMPTP president Carol Lombardini, in late August that resulted in blame-sharing. The WGA criticized the meeting after the AMPTP made its offer public on August 11 and claimed that its officials were given a “lecture about how good their one and only counteroffer was.” On September 14, the AMPTP said that the WGA had contacted them to resume talks and that both parties were working to schedule them for the next week. This ended the negotiation hiatus.
The WGA strike, which is still going on, was approaching its record-setting length as of day 146. The current benchmark was established in 1988 when the WGA went on a 154-day strike against Hollywood studios.
The double WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the first time both have taken place at once in more than 60 years, have severely hampered the business. Despite the agreement’s provisional nature, it represents a historic development. The WGA strike immediately had an effect: Filming in Los Angeles decreased by 29% from April to June 2023 compared to the same period in 2018, according to a report on April 19 from the local office of FilmLA.
Numerous significant projects, like Marvel’s Blade 2 and Thunderbolts, Loot on Apple TV+, Netflix’s Stranger Things, and others, were stopped in their tracks or delayed. Additional projects, such as Venom 3, Gladiator 2, and Deadpool 3 followed after SAG-AFTRA joined the strike.
Even if a tentative agreement is reached, WGA members might still vote to reject it in a subsequent ratification vote, leaving open the possibility that the strike will continue. Given how long the current work stoppage has lasted, there are a lot of expectations and stakes. The WGA leadership will surely put out a lot of effort over the next few days to convince their members of the benefits of the arrangement.
The contract’s negotiations started under way on March 20 but broke down the night of May 1, resulting in a strike the following day. On August 11, the two parties got back together. Their talks came to a halt in late August, but they picked back up on September 20 and ended on September 23. The writers had been pushing for significant compensation in the era of streaming, including increased wage levels, legislation governing mini-rooms, and residual payments based on the success of their programs.
In the meantime, studios and streamers were attempting to control their spending on personnel after Wall Street turned on unprofitable streaming businesses in 2022 and amid an unsteady economic environment. It will be interesting to see how both sides were able to find a solution that would appease their supporters.
WGA West assistant executive director Ellen Stutzman, who stepped up to the plate after the western branch of the union’s executive director David Young went on medical leave before the start of talks, led the authors in their negotiations. The negotiations were managed by Carol Lombardini, who has served as the AMPTP’s main negotiator since 2009.
The WGA’s members will now have to decide whether the agreement addresses the workplace issues that their peers have been bringing up for months. The union’s ratification vote for the agreement, whose date has not yet been made public, will be closely watched.