Writers Guild Strike to End Wednesday: Leadership Votes to Conclude Historic Work Stoppage
THR Illustration / Image: David McNew/Getty Images
A historic Hollywood labor battle will soon be over.
The 148-day writers’ strike, the second longest in Writers Guild of America history, will conclude on 12:01 am PT Wednesday thanks to a vote from guild leadership that officially authorized some 11,500 members to return to work. Tasks that for months were prohibited by strike rules — pitching, selling scripts, taking meetings, responding to notes — will then be sanctioned, while writers’ rooms can reconvene.
“This allows writers to return to work during the ratification process, but does not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval,” the WGA negotiating committee stated after its WGA West Board and WGA East Council voted unanimously to lift the “restraining order” on Tuesday.
As the negotiators noted, the end of the strike doesn’t mean that the tentative agreement that the union reached with studios and streamers on Sunday night is a sure thing: Union members still need to vote to ratify the contract, a referendum that union leadership announced on Tuesday will take place between Oct. 2 and Oct. 9. Members are also being asked to attend informational meetings on the new deal that will take place in New York, Los Angeles and on Zoom in the coming days. There, leaders will undoubtedly look to sell the deal to members and argue that the union’s grueling work stoppage gave it the necessary leverage to pry these conditions from major industry employers.
Studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and the union finally announced the tentative agreement on a new three-year contract on Sunday night after a full weekend of work on the deal. After about a month where talks were at a standstill, progress accelerated starting Sept. 20, when the two sides got back to the bargaining table at the AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks headquarters with major industry leaders (Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley) attending. With top leaders in the room, the studios made changes to their position on issues like minimum staffing in television writers’ rooms and rewarding writers for the success of projects on streaming. Regulations on artificial intelligence proved to be a lasting sticking point, but the two sides eventually came to a compromise by Sunday night. In its communication to members about the agreement on Sunday, the WGA called the resulting agreement “exceptional.”
On Tuesday, the WGA West Board and the WGA East Council approved the deal, which set in motion the vote to end the restraining order against AMPTP member companies.
The news brings to an end one half of a historic labor standoff in entertainment, a double strike not seen in over 60 years in Hollywood. SAG-AFTRA still remains out on strike, and neither that union nor the AMPTP have announced any new bargaining dates for the parties yet. On Tuesday evening, in a statement posted to Instagram, SAG-AFTRA’s leadership sought to dispel speculation on meeting dates with the studios and streamers. “At this time, we have no confirmed dates scheduled to meet with the AMPTP. When we do have dates confirmed, we will inform you. Unless you hear it from us, it’s hearsay,” the statement said.
SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP remain deadlocked on issues of general wage increases, a proposal to give union members a cut of platform subscriber revenue when their streaming projects succeed and regulations on artificial intelligence, among other issues. Even with the writers back at work, production cannot resume in any meaningful way without principal performers.