Labor or Unions

Writers Guild Strike

The Covid crisis had a devastating impact on Hollywood. Productions stopped or slowed down. Movie studios, television networks, streamers, and other producers laid off thousands of workers. Those who produce scripted material have been affected by live programming, sports, and other unscripted material increasingly consumed digitally on demand. The Writers Guild has taken a strike authorization approved by nearly 98% of eligible voting members. The strike will affect over 800,000 jobs.

The combatants

In this corner…

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, also known as AMPTP, is the collective bargaining representative for motion picture and television producers who make and distribute scripted content. The AMPTP bargains with unions such as the American Federation of Musicians; the Directors Guild of America; the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the Laborers Union; the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, also known as SAG-AFTRS; the Teamsters, and the Writers Guild of America.

In the opposite corner…

The Writers Guild of America is a labor union representing writers who create scripts for motion pictures, television, news, and online media. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect its members’ creative and economic rights.

The issues…

The WGA is demanding viewership-based residuals in addition to existing fixed residuals. Such residual payments would require that the AMPTP provide transparency regarding viewership numbers. The WGA demands regulation of the use of Artificial Intelligence. This would be a prohibition on writing- or rewriting- literary material or using AI-generated source material. WGA wants movies with a budget of $12 million and up to be governed by theatrical terms. AMPTP wants films with budgets of $40 million and up governed by those terms. WGA demands the creation of a second payment step. A step system pays employees more based on how long they have been employed. The WGA demands minimum staffing for writer’s rooms, with a minimum of six writers per room. The number of writers would grow with the episode orders, with one additional staffer added for every two episodes. The room would top out with a maximum of 12 writers per room. This proposal would eliminate those who want to write every episode of a series without other writers in the room. WGA estimates that its proposals would be worth approximately $429 million annually. The AMPTP proposals would come to about $86 million annually. Hollywood has been unionized for almost one hundred years. The longest WGA strike was in 1988 and lasted 153 days. The most recent strike was the 2007-08 strike which lasted 14 weeks. If SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild join the WGA on strike, the length of the work stoppage could lengthen dramatically.

Thanks, and a tip of the hat to WGA for the image.

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