WGA Approves Strike Authorization Vote

The Writers Guild of America has passed a strike authorization vote with 97.85% voting in favor, giving union leadership the power to call a strike once the contract expires on May 1.

In an email to members, the guild said that 78.79% of eligible members had cast ballots.

“These results set a new record for both participation and the percentage of support in a strike authorization vote,” the guild said. “Our membership has spoken. 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.”

Talks between the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers were set to resume on Monday afternoon. The two sides met only a couple of times over the last two weeks, as the guild focused on rallying its members to support the authorization.

The vote was widely expected and does not make a strike inevitable. The union has said that the goal was to increase negotiators’ leverage as talks go down to the wire.

Some in the guild also argued that a higher percentage voting in favor would make a strike less likely. The idea is that it would communicate that the guild is united and make the studios less inclined to try to test its strength in a strike.

In 2017, the guild voted 96.3% in favor of a strike authorization and did not strike. In 2007, 90.3% voted for a strike authorization, and the guild did strike. The guild also went on strike in 1988, after 97% voted for the authorization.

This time around, the WGA is seeking a major reworking of writer compensation, including a sizable increase in minimums, a better formula for residuals on streaming platforms and a minimum staffing requirement for all TV shows.

On Monday morning, the AMPTP issued a statement saying that the outcome of the strike authorization vote “should come as no surprise to anyone.”

“Our goal is, and continues to be, to reach a fair and reasonable agreement,” the alliance said.

The AMPTP delivered a response to the union proposals on Friday, and talks are expected to resume this week.

The negotiations began on March 20, but the early days consisted largely of speechmaking. Relatively little headway has been made on any key issues, raising concerns that negotiators may not have enough time to reach a deal on every item.

In addition to the pay issues, the guild has also proposed a new regulation that would allow artificial intelligence in scriptwriting, so long as it does not adversely affect writers’ credits and compensation. Though the guild faced public backlash after Variety first reported the proposal last month, and appeared to back away from it in a series of tweets, the union has not withdrawn or amended the proposal.

The union is also seeking to address options and exclusivity. In an era of shorter TV seasons and longer hiatus periods, writers often do not have the flexibility to seek other work during downtimes. SAG-AFTRA recently scored a significant victory on this front, winning a deal for three-month “conflict free windows” between seasons, in which TV actors are free to take any outside job they want.

If it appears that progress is being made, the WGA and the AMPTP could extend the talks for a few days after the May 1 deadline — or even longer.

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