The leadership of the Writers Guild of America is asking its 11,500 members to authorize a strike should they fail to reach an agreement on a new contract with the major Hollywood studios.
In a message to members, the guild’s negotiators cited a lack of progress in talks that began last month.
“After two weeks at the bargaining table, they [the studios] have failed to offer meaningful responses on the core economic issues in any of the WGA’s primary work areas — screen, episodic television and comedy-variety,” the union’s negotiators said. “They have listened politely to our presentations and made small moves in only a few areas, almost entirely coupled with rollbacks designed to offset any gains. In short, the studios have shown no sign that they intend to address the problems our members are determined to fix in this negotiation.”
It is not uncommon for unions to seek a strike authorization from members in order to gain more leverage in bargaining. If approved by a majority of members, leaders could call a strike after the current three- year film and TV contact expires on May 1. Online voting runs April 11-17.
The union and studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, entered negotiations on March 20.
Hollywood has been on edge over rising expectations that writers will stage their first strike since one in 2007-2008, which lasted 100 days and disrupted Southern California’s production economy.
The WGA has proposed demands worth $600 million, including increases in minimum pay and increases in residual payments from streaming, along with increased contributions to its health and pension plans.
Writers argue that despite the streaming boom, their median pay has fallen in last decade, citing a WGA report.
“The survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation,” the WGA leaders said. “Over the past decade, while our employers have increased their profits by tens of billions, they have embraced business practices that have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions.”
The last time the union asked members to vote on a possible strike was in 2017, The union ultimately negotiated a new contract without a strike.
Representatives of the AMPTP could not be immediately reached for comment.