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Strike Authorization Vote Now Underway at Writers Guild, With Current Contract Due to Expire May 1

Writers Guild of America West
WGA Strike Writers Guild
Michael Buckner/Variety

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.

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