It’s been over 146 days since the Writer’s Guild of America went on strike after failing to come to a new contract with Hollywood’s studios, networks, and streamers. Over four months the AMPTP, which represents the Hollywood media companies, not only saw the WGA picket their studio lots and headquarters, but the Screen Actors Guild joined them. It has been the first dual strike since 1960 and has brought production in Hollywood to almost a complete halt. Today, it appears a resolution to at least one of the work stoppages has been agreed upon.
In an E-mail to their members, the WGA said a “new tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement on all deal points subject to drafting final contract language” has been reached. The deal will go before WGA members who will vote on the proposal in the days ahead. If ratified, it will be just short of the longest strike in WGA history, 188 when writers walked the picket lines for 154 days.
The full statement from the WGA to its member is as follows:
We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language.
What we have won in this contract – most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd – 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. 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. We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.
What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last “i” is dotted. To do so would complicate our ability to finish the job. So, as you have been patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again – one last time.
Once the Memorandum of Agreement with the AMPTP is complete, the Negotiating Committee will vote on whether to recommend the agreement and send it on to the WGAW Board and WGAE Council for approval. The Board and Council will then vote on whether to authorize a contract ratification vote by the membership.
If that authorization is approved, the Board and Council would also vote on whether to lift the restraining order and end the strike at a certain date and time (to be determined) pending ratification. This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval.
Immediately after those leadership votes, which are tentatively scheduled for Tuesday if the language is settled, we will provide a comprehensive summary of the deal points and the Memorandum of Agreement. We will also convene meetings where members will have the opportunity to learn more about and assess the deal before voting on ratification.
To be clear, no one is to return to work until specifically authorized to by the Guild. We are still on strike until then. But we are, as of today, suspending WGA picketing. Instead, if you are able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.
Finally, we appreciated your patience as you waited for news from us — and had to fend off rumors — during the last few days of the negotiation. Please wait for further information from the Guild. We will have more to share with you in the coming days, as we finalize the contract language and go through our unions’ processes.
As always, thank you for your support. You will hear from us again very soon.”
Details of the new deal are unclear at this time, but it should be noted the guild framed them a “exceptional.”
After disputes following August negotiations over which side needed to reply, the AMPTP and WGA met this week with four key studio heads in attendance: Disney CEO Bob Iger, Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos, Univeral Studios Chief Content Officer Donna Langley and Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav.
Priorities for the WGA before negotiations began included assurances over A.I. replacing “human” writers, tying residuals to streaming content performance, and guaranteed staffing for writer’s rooms, among other negotiation points.
Despite attempts to keep negotiations secret, anonymous executives provided numerous outlets with off-the-record quotes that heightened the animosity between the two parties. The WGA (and SAG for that matter) clearly won the public relations battle, however, with a recent poll showing 67% of Americans supporting the unions while just 31% took the studios’ side. Whether animosity between writers and Hollywood executives continues to fester after the agreement is ratified remains to be seen.
With the WGA strike seemingly over, it means talk show programming such as “Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” can immediately get back into production. Daytime programs that postponed their fall launches – including the embattled “Drew Barrymore Show” – should also move forward. Even if the SAG strike can be resolved relatively soon, much of the 2023-2024 network broadcast season is “lost” and has been filled with reality content. It is unclear what shows will return for partial seasons in January.
Attention will now pivot to the SAG strike which began on July 14. That union has similar issues with the use of A.I. and streaming residuals. Obviously, until that strike is resolved, production is still effectively at a standstill, but the studios have clearly signaled with this WGA agreement that they will want to make a deal with the actor’s quickly.
The Directors Guild of America reached a deal with the AMPTP on June 3. It was criticized by many members who were also in the WGA but was still ratified on June 23 with just 41% of its membership voting.