WGA members on strike in Hollywood

Source: Screendaily / Jeremy Kay

WGA members on strike in Hollywood

Hollywood studios and streamers negotiator AMPTP (Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers) issued a statement late on Friday saying its members were “aligned” after Writers Guild Of America (WGA) updated striking members earlier in the evening and essentially claimed there was a lack of unity among the companies.

“The AMPTP member companies are aligned and are negotiating together to reach a resolution,” AMPTP’s statement read. “Any suggestion to the contrary is false. Every member company of the AMPTP wants a fair deal for writers and actors and an end to the strikes, which are affecting not only our writer and actor colleagues, but also thousands of others across the industry.”

The AMPTP said it had “repeatedly put forward offers” addressing each of the WGA’s demands and that the parties were close on many issues, including AI-related matters.

WGA maintains that since the strike began on May 2, the AMPTP has only offered one proposal on August 11.

AMPTP said that the Guild has by and large remained “entrenched” on its position over mandatory staffing of writers rooms and has made considerable gains during negotiations. AMPTP said WGA held the power to move talks forward and said all its member companies were eager to achieve resolution.

Earlier on Friday WGA told members to stand together on the 130th day of its work stoppage and said since SAG-AFTRA started its own strike, conversations by WGA hierarchy with executives at individual legacy studios indicated “both the desire and willingness to negotiate an agreement that adequately addresses writers’ issues”.

The guild asserted its was ready to negotiate a deal with studios outside of the “broken AMPTP model” and said the latter’s “intransigence” was hindering progress. 

Both the AMPTP statement and the WGA update that preceded it appear below.

AMPTP statement:

The AMPTP member companies are aligned and are negotiating together to reach a resolution. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.

Every member company of the AMPTP wants a fair deal for writers and actors and an end to the strikes, which are affecting not only our writer and actor colleagues, but also thousands of others across the industry.

That is why the AMPTP has repeatedly put forward offers that address major priorities of the WGA, including a last round of offers on August 17th and 18th . [See below] On many issues, AI among them, we are close. Our AI proposal has provided clear guarantees that the use of AI will not affect writers’ pay, credit or separated rights. We have asked the WGA to identify any remaining holes in the AI offer and it has not responded.

On the important topic of mandatory staffing, the WGA has remained entrenched in its original position, except for a single modest change in its position on staffing in development rooms.

The WGA has achieved substantial gains for its members during this negotiation process and holds the power to move this negotiation forward by responding to the AMPTP’s most recent offers on key issues. The AMPTP, including all its member companies, remains eager to reach resolution.

Timeline Of Proposals

April 14, 2023: AMPTP presented WGA with its Comprehensive Package Proposal, a 31-page document.

April 26, 2023: AMPTP presented WGA with its Revised Comprehensive Package Proposal, a 40-page document.

April 30, 2023: AMPTP presented WGA with its Second Revised Comprehensive Package Proposal, a 41-page document that addressed all items in negotiations.

August 11, 2023: AMPTP presented WGA with its Third Revised Comprehensive Package Proposal, a 69-page document that addressed all items in negotiations.

August 15, 2023: WGA responded with a 4-page document with limited moves in a handful of areas.

August 16, 2023: WGA provided details of its revised written proposal on A.I.

August 17, 2023: AMPTP provided WGA a revised AI counterproposal, which focused on the key concerns that the WGA had expressed during discussion the previous day.

August 18, 2023: AMPTP offered further compromises to WGA’s August 15th response. WGA indicated it would respond the following week. AMPTP has not heard from the Guild since that time.

WGA update:

Dear Members, 

We know that people are anxious for information about the status of the negotiation—and how difficult it can be to stay strong during periods of silence—which is only exacerbated by the companies’ recent attempts to make an end run around the negotiating committee and confuse the narrative. What follows is an update on where we are and how we got here. We share things we have not shared up until now, including conversations with individual executives that illustrate how some of the companies can already see a path toward making a deal, while other members of the AMPTP are not there yet.

In the 130 days since the WGA strike began, the AMPTP has only offered one proposal to the WGA, on August 11th. Since then, the companies have not moved off that proposal even though the WGA in turn presented our own counterproposal to the AMPTP on August 15th. The current standstill is not a sign of the companies’ power, but of AMPTP paralysis.

The studios and streamers bargaining together through the AMPTP have disparate business models and interests, as well as different histories and relationships with unions. They are competitors in all respects, except when they band together to deal with Hollywood labor. Through the AMPTP, these legacy studios and streamers negotiate as a united front which allows hard liners to dictate the course of action for all the companies. The AMPTP purports to represent all of these disparate corporate interests, but in practice administers a system that favors inflexibility over compromise, and sacrifices the interests of individual companies in reaching a deal. That regression to the hardest line has produced the first simultaneous strikes since 1960. 

In contrast, during individual conversations with legacy studio executives in the weeks since SAG-AFTRA went on strike, we have heard both the desire and willingness to negotiate an agreement that adequately addresses writers’ issues. One executive said they had reviewed our proposals, and though they did not commit to a specific deal, said our proposals would not affect their company’s bottom line and that they recognized they must give more than usual to settle this negotiation. Another said they needed a deal badly. Those same executives — and others — have said they are willing to negotiate on proposals that the AMPTP has presented to the public as deal breakers. On every single issue we are asking for we have had at least one legacy studio executive tell us they could accommodate us. 

So, while the intransigence of the AMPTP structure is impeding progress, these behind-the-scenes conversations demonstrate there is a fair deal to be made that addresses our issues. Given the outsized economic impact of the strikes on the legacy companies, their individual studio interest in making a deal isn’t surprising. Warner Bros. confirmed this in a public financial filing just this week. 

We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more of the major studios, outside the confines of the AMPTP, to establish the new WGA deal. There is no requirement that the companies negotiate through the AMPTP. So, if the economic destabilization of their own companies isn’t enough to cause a studio or two or three to either assert their own self-interest inside the AMPTP, or to break away from the broken AMPTP model, perhaps Wall Street will finally make them do it. 

Until there is a breakthrough, the companies and AMPTP will try to sow doubt and internal guild dissension. Keep your radar up. When the companies send messages through surrogates or the press about the unreasonableness of your guild leadership, take those messages as part of a bad-faith effort to influence negotiations and not as the objective truth. 

The companies know the truth: they must negotiate if they want to end the strike. They may not like it – they may try to obscure it – but they know it. While they wrestle with that fact and with each other, they will continue attempting to get writers to settle for less than what we need and deserve, and encourage us to negotiate with ourselves. But we are not going to do that.

Instead, the companies inside the AMPTP who want a fair deal with writers must take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach. 

We understand how painful this time is for everyone. We are all tired and hurting and scared. There is nothing wrong with saying so. The optimism for a return to negotiation has been met with a harsh reminder of how fraught this process can be. We share the frustration with how long the companies are prolonging the strike, and remain committed to negotiating a fair resolution as fast as possible. 

In the meantime, as always, you can find your negotiating committee and board and council members out on the picket lines. When there is anything of significance to report, we will write again. 

In solidarity,

WGA Negotiating Committee