In a significant development for the entertainment industry, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and major Hollywood studios have tentatively reached an agreement, potentially ending a 146-day strike that has disrupted the lives of thousands and highlighted concerns arising from technological changes.
The proposed three-year contract includes higher pay rates, residual payments for streaming shows, and introduces new regulations regarding the use of artificial intelligence.
However the contract is still subject to ratification by the union’s 11,500 members.
The strike began on May 2nd and was spearheaded by writers looking to protect themselves in response to shifts in the industry.
This shift is due to the rise of streaming platforms and other technological advancements that have affected their livelihoods.
With a potential resolution in sight, attention now turns to the 160,000-member performers union, SAG-AFTRA, which has been on strike since mid-July. The next steps involve a thorough examination of the contract by guild staff and voting by the negotiating committee to recommend the contract to the WGA West board and WGA East council for approval.
Ending the Picket
During the strike, writers were advised not to return to work until the guild authorized them to do so, but with this potential deal in play, picketing will be temporarily halted.
The prolonged strike has had significant repercussions, particularly affecting crew members and small businesses reliant on the entertainment industry. Additionally, it has exposed the challenges of shorter seasons for streaming shows and reduced opportunities for writers.
This has impacted writer income and job stability, especially in the costly media hubs of Los Angeles and New York.
The studios, on the other hand, faced their own set of obstacles. The pay-TV sector has seen a decline due to cable cord-cutting and diminishing TV ratings, leading to reduced revenue.
At the same time, traditional companies invested heavily in launching competitive streaming services, resulting in substantial financial losses.
This strike is one of the longest in Hollywood’s history and saw negotiations intensify recently as top company executives joined the bargaining table after extended pauses.
The strike had halted much of Hollywood’s film and scripted TV production as writers picketed major studios.
In July, the entry of actors into the strike added momentum to the labor struggle, broadening its relevance to the wider public.
This rare dual strike in Hollywood’s history further disrupted productions and negatively impacted related businesses such as talent agencies, casting firms, caterers, and prop houses.
The strike’s ripple effect reached film releases, causing delays in major movies like “Dune: Part Two” and altering TV schedules.
This resulted in reruns, sports broadcasts, and unscripted programming.
The involvement of actors was dubbed the “hot labor summer” and not only re-energized the WGA but also other unions within Hollywood.
Social media played a crucial role as writers used platforms to highlight economic disparities and contrast their demands with executive compensation packages.
Statements by corporate leaders, like Bob Iger of Walt Disney Co., further fueled the strike’s momentum, with union members rallying support from various Hollywood unions, including the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Teamsters.
Bob Iger told CNBC that writer’s demands were unrealistic while attending an exclusive retreat for industry elites sponsored by investment bankers.
Another unnamed executive told Deadline, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”
Over time, the strike’s economic toll continued to rise, with some Hollywood workers relocating, losing their homes, and facing uncertainty over their health insurance due to insufficient qualifying working hours.
Despite the tentative agreement, the continuation of production will not be immediate. Scripts must be written, and negotiations between studios and SAG-AFTRA, which has also been on strike, are yet to occur.
The industry remains on edge as it strives to salvage the network TV season and 2024 film schedules.
Recent Wins by Unions
Though the public response is a mixed bag of support for the unions and disdain for the Hollywood system as a whole, one social media user saw this in relationship to other strikes going on around the country and commented, “I’m loving all the recent wins by unions and workers against these big corporations. Hope to see it continue.
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