Hollywood writers secure tentative deal after 146 days of strike

The bargaining team of the Writers’ Guild of America have announced an in-principle agreement on all major issues raised by the striking writers. The strike is set to continue until after the final draft of the tentative agreement is authorized for a ratification vote

September 25, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Writers Guild strike US
(Photo: Writers Guild of America West/X)

After nearly five months, striking writers have secured a tentative agreement with Hollywood studio bosses. In a statement released on Sunday, September 24, the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA), which has been organizing the strike, announced that “an agreement in principle on all deal points” have been arrived at by the bargaining team.

The deal comes after the latest round of talks between the bargaining team of the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), while writers completed 146 days on strike. As per reports, the latest round of talks reached a major impasse on Saturday, but the AMPTP relented on a mutually agreeable deal on Sunday.

The union leadership will not be calling off the strike just yet. The provisional deal is currently being drafted and will be subject to final contract language, which can take a few more days.

Once the draft is complete and agreed upon by both sides, it would then be voted upon by the bargaining team to authorize a ratification vote among members. Only then will the union leadership vote on whether or not to continue the industrial action until the ratification.

For the deal to take effect, it needs to be ratified by a majority of the nearly 12,000 members of the WGA, who have been on strike since May 2. The process could take weeks before the dispute between studio bosses and the writers can be resolved.

Union leadership seems positive about the latest deal, which, if ratified, would dictate the terms of the minimum basic agreement for thousands of writers in the industry for the next three years.

“What we have won in this contract… is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days,” the WGA statement read.

“It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal.”

The WGA has clarified that “no one is to return to work,” but the union’s pickets will be suspended. The Guild has also encouraged striking writers to join the picket lines of Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAF-AFTRA), which has been leading another parallel strike against AMPTP since July 14.

The months-long strike, which later coincided with a similarly industry-wide strike action by SAG-AFTRA, has virtually brought the US entertainment industry to a halt. As per reports, the strike has cost studios over USD 5 billion in losses in California and elsewhere. Major television and film productions were brought to a standstill or delayed because of the strike. This was the first time since 1960 that writers and actors undertook a simultaneous strike.

Some of the key issues of the striking writers, shared by the striking actors, has been the loss of residuals with the advent of streaming platforms, lack of minimum staffing in studios, and the increased use of artificial intelligence to replace writers and performers.

The loss of residuals and poor compensation has been the central issue for the writers with a major shift towards streaming platforms from traditional television. As more shows began streaming on online platforms and were made accessible to a foreign audience, writers made a pittance in revenue.

The advent of AI has also threatened the livelihoods of thousands of writers as major studios shrink writing staff. Writers have also called for protections against loss of credit as studios attempt to introduce AI as part of the creative process, and to prevent studios from using AI-generated storylines and scripts to replace human labor.

While details of the draft deal is yet to be released, if it includes regulations on the use of AI, this could be a watershed moment for the industry that is treading into uncharted territory with the advent of AI and similar technologies.