Hollywood studios are bracing for a potential work stoppage by screenwriters affiliated with the Writers Guild of America (WGA). On Monday, an overwhelming number of its members—98% vs. 2%-=voted to strike if a new contract agreement was not reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The current three-year contract expires on May 1. The WGA’s last walkout occurred in 2007, in a strike that lasted 100 days.
The Guild’s chief negotiator, Chris Keyser, defended the strike vote by declaring: “We are the people who create the stuff that the world watches. And yet we’re treated as if we are virtually valueless. Sustaining a writing career has become almost untenable for a large percentage of our members. We’re just at a breaking point.”
In a statement to its 11,500-strong membership, WGA officials said: “You have expressed your collective strength, solidarity, and the 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.”
Analysts attribute much of the dispute to the explosive proliferation of streaming platforms in recent years, for which the writers claim is hurting their revenues. To counter this, they are asking for compensation increases totaling nearly $600 million, which would give them an increase in minimum pay and higher residual payments from the streaming services. They are also seeking higher contributions from producers to the Writers’ Guild health and pension plans.
Responding to the Guild’s demands, AMPTP spokesperson Scott Rowe stated its commitment of the producers’ alliance toward reaching what he called a “fair and reasonable agreement” that would involve a mutual search for “reasonable compromises.” AMPTP claims that its own members have experienced declining revenues in recent years, necessitating belt-tightening.
Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz, a showrunner, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “Sometimes a labor action like that is the only option we have if the studios aren’t willing to give us a deal that will fix the problems that we’ve identified. Nobody wants to go on strike, it’s a last resort.”
Another LA-based writer, Zoe Marshall, told the Times that “The cost of living in Los Angeles is the highest it’s ever been, the cost of an education is the highest it’s ever been, and the nature of this business and how we’re compensated requires me to ration out my checks over these extended periods of time.”
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