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Hollywood Writers Approve New Contract

On Monday October 9, members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted to approve the contract deal that ended the 2023 writers strike. According to the WGA, 8,525 members — about 75% of those eligible to vote — voted on the deal; and of those, 99% approved it.

How The Writers Strike Began
The WGA is the union representing, among others, Hollywood screenwriters. On May 2, it went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The AMPTP represents the executives of every major film and TV company (like Disney, Netflix, and Warner Bros.) in contract negotiations with labor unions. The contracts set the terms under which members of the union are employed; this involves things like salary levels, minimum staff sizes, and labor protections.

The WGA’s contract with the AMPTP expired on May 1. The two organizations began negotiating the terms of a new contract prior to that date; but they didn’t come to an agreement. The average living standards of Hollywood screenwriters have been degrading over time; so the WGA wanted the new contract to include things like better pay, higher rates of employment, and guarantees that writers wouldn’t lose their jobs to artificial intelligence. The AMPTP refused to meet the WGA’s terms or accept a satisfactory compromise, so for the first time since 2007, the union went on strike.

How The Writers Strike Ended
The strike was officially called off on the morning of September 27, after the WGA leadership approved the deal the day before. Many writers were back on the job almost immediately — late-night TV shows began airing episodes again within a week. The vote was essentially a formality; even before it was taken, rank-and-file members were publicly praising the deal.

The new contract, reached after 145 days on strike, includes increased pay, guarantees that more writers will be hired for TV shows, and protections that keep executives from using artificial intelligence to automate writers’ jobs. After going so long without paychecks, and gaining so much more than the AMPTP was initially willing to give, the writers accepted the win.

The Aftermath Of The Writers Strike
However, even with the WGA strike formally over, its consequences are still reshaping the Hollywood landscape. The head writers of the popular talk show The Drew Barrymore Show decided not to return after the show resumed filming during the strike. Writers are also still picketing in support of the actors union, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

SAG-AFTRA went on strike on July 14 and only recently resumed contract negotiations with the AMPTP. SAG-AFTRA’s leverage in those negotiations has probably improved since the WGA reached its deal: the WGA victory showed that worker perseverance will pay off; and since the actors’ and writers’ goals are mostly the same, the AMPTP is now more likely to give the actors what they want.

However, while SAG-AFTRA now has a stronger position, it seems likely that the executives will still fight against making concessions. In the wake of the WGA ratification vote, the AMPTP put out a short, two-sentence statement. The first sentence of the statement does mention the “meaningful gains and protections for writers” in the new contract. However, the second and final sentence makes clear that the AMPTP thinks the real priority should be restarting profits: “It is important progress for our industry that writers are back to work.”

The WGA’s new contract expires on May 1, 2026, three years after the last one expired. The recurrence of writers strikes every couple of decades suggests that the 2023 WGA strike won’t be the last. Nonetheless, though, about 11,500 people are returning to work; they’ve empowered a fellow Hollywood union of about 160,000; and they’ve won better conditions for themselves, and for all those who come after them.

Edited by: Mariyam Qureshi
Image Source: LA County

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Tags: #labor #strike #2023WritersStrike


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