The Writers Guild of America and major Hollywood studios have reached a tentative agreement to end a strike that has endured for 146 days, leaving numerous individuals unemployed and highlighting concerns regarding technological changes. The proposed three-year contract, subject to ratification by the union’s 11,500 members, entails increased pay rates and residual payments for streaming content, alongside new regulations regarding the use of artificial intelligence. The WGA negotiating committee expressed their satisfaction, noting that the deal offers substantial benefits and protections to writers across all sectors of the membership.
The strike, initiated on May 2, sought safeguards against the threats posed to writers’ livelihoods by streaming and other industry transformations. Now that the tentative agreement with the WGA has been reached, industry leaders are expected to focus on stalled negotiations with the 160,000-member performers union, SAG-AFTRA, in an effort to resume industry operations. The strike by actors began in mid-July.
WGA leaders have outlined their next steps, including a thorough review of the contract to ensure all details are in order. The negotiating committee will vote on whether to recommend the contract, with subsequent approval required from the WGA West board and WGA East council, anticipated to occur on Tuesday. Writers have been advised not to return to work until authorized by the guild, although picketing will be suspended.
WGA members have celebrated the outcome on social media, emphasizing their collective strength and demands for a fair share.
The dual strikes have taken a toll on crew members, who showed solidarity through financial sacrifices. Small businesses dependent on the entertainment industry have also suffered.
The writers’ strike was, in large part, a response to the seismic changes brought about by streaming services. Reduced episode counts for streaming shows and a decrease in writer employment have affected the earnings and job security of guild members, making it increasingly challenging to sustain a living in the costly media hubs of Los Angeles and New York.
Studios faced their own set of challenges, with pay-TV’s decline due to cord-cutting and falling TV ratings affecting revenue sources. Simultaneously, traditional companies invested significantly in launching competitive streaming services, resulting in substantial financial losses.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers represents a diverse range of companies, from entertainment-focused entities like Netflix to traditional studios such as Warner Bros. Discovery and Walt Disney Co., as well as tech giants like Apple and Amazon.
The strike marked one of Hollywood’s lengthiest, with negotiations gaining momentum recently when company CEOs engaged in talks. Talks had resumed for the first time since August 22.
The path to an agreement was turbulent, with picketing by writers disrupting film and scripted TV production. The addition of actors to the work stoppages in mid-July compounded the economic impact while broadening the labor struggle’s visibility.
The twin strikes, a rarity since 1960, had severe repercussions for the entertainment industry, further delaying productions and financially impacting related businesses, including talent agencies, casting firms, caterers, and prop houses. Major film releases, like Warner Bros.’ “Dune: Part Two,” were delayed because actors couldn’t promote their films.
The involvement of actors energized the WGA and other unions. Social media was utilized effectively to spotlight economic disparities between the requested raises for writers and the executive compensation of top studio leaders.
Corporate leaders faced backlash, with Disney CEO Bob Iger criticized for dismissing the unions’ demands while attending an exclusive industry event. These statements galvanized WGA members, who garnered support from various Hollywood unions.
After three months of striking, WGA and AMPTP agreed to meet last month, but discussions didn’t go well. Talks broke down after an August 22 meeting with leading CEOs, with the alliance releasing a summary of its proposal, deepening mistrust between the parties.
Despite offering wage increases and flexibility on certain topics, the studios’ proposal fell short for the WGA’s negotiating committee. Frustration among workers grew as the strikes continued beyond Labor Day.
The strikes had substantial economic consequences, with estimates suggesting damages of around $5 billion to California’s economy. If the strikes continued into mid-October, the cost could exceed $6 billion.
For weeks, the parties disagreed on timelines and counteroffers. The WGA’s negotiating committee even suggested that some studios might negotiate separately with the guild, but the AMPTP denied this. Last week, the studio alliance indicated that the WGA had reached out to restart negotiations, indicating a possible thaw.
Despite the new agreement, production is unlikely to resume immediately. Scripts must be written, and a new contract with SAG-AFTRA is still pending. Video game performers are also considering whether to authorize a strike in their negotiations with gaming companies.