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Writers Guild Strike Authorization Vote Breaks Records, as 98% Say ‘Yes’

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

The vote is in, and members of the Writers Guild of America are very, very strongly in favor of going on strike if satisfactory terms are not negotiated by May 1, when their current contract expires.

As voting on the strike authorization closed this afternoon, a record 97.85% of respondents said “Yes” to a work stoppage. Additionally, a record 78.79% of eligible WGA members (9,218 members) participated in the vote.

A simple “Yes” vote grants authority for the Board and Council to call the strike, but an overwhelming majority is desired 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 WGA 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. With the strike authorization vote in, negotiations between both sides are expected to begin in earnest.

Previously, SAVs were supported by a 90 percent “Yes” vote in 2007 and a 96 percent “Yes” vote in 2017. The former work stoppage, which lasted 100 days and came at midseason, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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