The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) Board and Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) Council this week are conducting a strike authorization vote (SAV), which could authorize the organization to call a strike after the current Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) expires on May 1.
Asking for a SAV is a step that unions take “to demonstrate resolve and support for the bargaining agenda, and to prepare for a possible strike, particularly in negotiations where critical issues are at stake,” according to the guild’s website.
The current vote began Tuesday and will continue through Monday, April 17. Talks have been underway for four weeks so far, and will resume in earnest after the vote is in. If approved, a 2023 strike could start as early as 3:01 am ET on Tuesday, May 2.
“The studios need to respond to the crisis writers face,” the WGAW wrote in a recent tweet. “WGA members must demonstrate our willingness to fight for the contract writers need and deserve by supporting a strike authorization vote… Over the past decade, the companies embraced business practices that slashed our compensation and undermined our working conditions. We are asking to restore writer pay & conditions to reflect our value to this industry. The survival of our profession is at stake.”
Some of the Board and Council’s demands include increased residuals for reuse markets, the reduction of “mini writers rooms” that greatly diminish the size of TV writing staffs, increased contributions to pension plans and health funds, and standardized compensation and residual terms for features released either theatrically or via streaming. In addition: enacted measures to combat discrimination and harassment and promote pay equity, and a strengthened regulation of options and exclusivity in television writer employment contracts.
A simple “Yes” vote does cast authority for the Board and Council to call the strike, however, an overwhelming majority is needed in order to send a strong message to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents the nine largest studios in Hollywood — that the membership is united in its agenda. The stronger the support for a strike, the more leverage the WGA has when heading back to the negotiations table.
In anticipation of a possible strike, some shows (including NBC’s Quantum Leap and La Brea) rolled production on the current season right into the next, so as to bank episodes to offset any lull in output.
According to the WGA, more writers work at the MBA minimum now than a decade ago. Between 2013 and 2014, only 33 percent of all TV series writers were paid the minimum. But in the nearly 10 years since, that number has jumped to 50 percent. Lower weekly pay of the writers and producers represented was also cited as being down four percent throughout the last decade. When accounting for inflation, that decline leaps to a staggering 23 percent.
Previously, SAVs were supported by a 90 percent “Yes” vote in 2007 and a 96 percent “Yes” vote in 2017, the former of which lasted 100 days. That works stoppage, coming at midseason as it did, resulted in, among other things, truncated seasons for shows such as 30 Rock, The Big Bang Theory, Brothers & Sisters, three CSIs, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, NCIS, The Office, Scrubs and Two and a Half Men — to name just a few of the ones that wound up producing half or less of their seasons.
I think there will be a strike. And the mandate will be pretty big. Given the state of play in show business with streaming, and limited orders, as low as eight episodes. That is way below what was, and has to impact the writers. Who were used to getting jobs for big orders. Doing it now. Hopefully, there will be less carnage next season. But there might be. At least this time, shows have been putting in Plan B’s in case. Unlike the last one, which impacted many shows. And certain storylines. Although Big Bang Theory, it probably saved the show by giving the show the chance to show reruns, and to go in different directions once back and running.
I will never forget the fantasy story episode of Scrubs during the last strike. Absolutely horrendous and didnt even remotely fit in with ongoing storylines.
And Bones Gormogan storyline was pared down after a big set and went in a direction that was totally out of nowhere and cause a lot of furor with fans because they had no ability to set it up, because of the strike. The last one being in the middle of the season caused a lot of disruption. There are Plan B’s for this one. But there are those who shows who have not been saved yet, that might suffer or have to start late next season if they do get saved… This has a makings of a long strike possibly.
I’m speculating that the writers may not win, or at least not until a strike runs for a long time. The studios won’t have as much pressure on them from the viewing public as in the past.
The public will have have a lot to keep watching given the surge in streaming channels and so many new shows produced in the last couple years. Plus the streamers give easy availability of older shows to watch again or even for the first time.
And while there won’t be as many new shows, the networks could, as in the past, pull in Canadian shows. And they could move some shows from streaming to the networks to fill air time. Those would be new to a lot of the public.
Yes there are options for the broadcast networks to fill their schedules. Airing streaming series, which you brought up in your post. NBC reportedly will have new episodes of Night Court, La Brea and Quantum Leap ready for all, giving NBC a semblance of it’s regular programming. However, the broadcast networks are facing declining ratings. Disney, Paramount, NBC/Universal and WarnersDiscovery all have streaming services losing money. A prolonged writer’s strike could be damaging to both streaming and broadcast, consumers cancelling streaming services, the broadcast networks risking further audience erosion.
NBC will also have another ten of Magnum that they could air in the fall. Which probably can be brought up to Christmas, or little post into, 2024. CBS also renewed some early although I have not heard if their franchise shows were planning to continue taping post their season finales because those who have almost full schedules, of 20 or more are at a more disadvantage. So, ABC, CBS might be stuck with reruns, or shows gleamed from different sources. So, it might help those shows on NBC and also streaming depending how long the strike lasts. Most shows don’t go into shooting until July or August. So, networks have a little leeway. But not much because you have to start to plan, so shows might have already gotten a plan for their next seasons. Even if they were not renewed yet.
But given the stakes in this for writers, I suspect it will be a long one. Until it starts to show what the writers are losing, and starts to impact their daily lives. Which will be what the networks will hope. That will always be their leverage. Both sides lose. But the networks, streaming have more leverage.
NBC is definitely the most prepared. It does make one wonder, though, that if the strike goes through how many will return to their shows when they finally come back on the air. But what can I say? I waited nine months for Magnum to return. True fans will be patient:)
I agree. The strike will give me time to catch up on all the streaming shows. I’m currently on Season 2 of Stranger Things. So, no spoilers!
Don’t let the door hit you…
Quite frankly, good. I can’t believe how much trash is able to make it to the screen these days. They’ll make anything. Movies seem to be worse than TV, but not by much. If a “strike” can cull 90%+ of the writers, permanently, that would be amazing as they have no business “writing.”
That’s like throwing insults at a professional athlete for fumbling a ball. Sure, their skill set in their chosen profession may not be at the top of that profession, but let’s see you do better from the safety of your recliner or from behind your keyboard.
If you don’t like something, don’t watch it. If enough people don’t watch, then that show will go off the air. If enough money is sunk into a given writer’s projects and they don’t succeed, that writer won’t be hired going forward. Vote with your time and your wallet and don’t get your knickers in a twist if something you don’t like or won’t watch is successful.
Couldn’t agree more. So glad you posted this. The complete disdain shown for writers by many posters on this website….disgusting. Yes, everyone has an opinion, but the lack of any respect at all by many posters is pathetic. (Are writers for TVLINE.COM members of the guild? May be a stupid question but I honestly have no idea.)
Why don’t you try writing, sparky. Judging by the way you wrote that nonsense, you couldn’t pass a 10th grade proficiency test.
Eeeeek! But, we knew it was coming.
I support the writers and actually hope there is a strike – a very long strike until all of their reasonable demands/concerns are met.
I definitely think writers should get more money for residuals when episodes are repeated. They wrote the content.
Besides Bones, the thing I most remember about the last strike is how it led to the eventual cancellation of Dirty Sexy Money.
This is all very concerning. I really hope that if there is a strike, that it doesn’t last long. We wouldn’t have our tv shows without the writers and they should be paid fairly. Hopefully the studios will pay them. Fingers crossed. 🤞🙏😔
But what is considered fair? We’re not talking about all the people who make the sets run, we’re talking writers who generally aren’t having to deal with terrible working conditions and 16hr days unless they can’t get their brain to work and actually get the script going. The strike in 08 ruined a lot of good shows and prematurely canceled quite a few. If this is just Hollywood being Hollywood I’m not a fan.
I suppose you don’t mind working for less than you would rightly deserve, or wouldn’t mind seeing your work sold for millions and receive nothing in return. Hey guys, lets keeo getting screwed by the studios, jeepers has a show she likes. …and those shows being cancelled was not on the writers, studios/producers could have coughed up a little more dough and kept them around while the strike was going on. Would not have hurt them at all in the long run.