THR Illustration / Image: David McNew/Getty Images
A historic Hollywood labor battle may soon be over.
The 148-day writers’ strike, the second-longest in Writers Guild of America history, ends at 12:01 a.m. PT Wednesday thanks to a vote by guild leadership that officially authorized 11,500 members to return to work. Tasks barred for months by strike rules — pitching, selling scripts, taking meetings, responding to notes — will then be allowed, while writers’ rooms can reconvene.
“This allows writers to return to work during the approval process, but does not affect membership’s right to make the final decision on contract approval,” the WGA Negotiating Committee said after its WGA West Board and WGA East Council voted unanimously to “injunction” Tuesday.
As negotiators noted, the end of the strike doesn’t mean the tentative deal the union reached with studios and streamers Sunday night is solid: Union members still need to vote to ratify the deal, which is a vote of union leadership. It was announced on Tuesday that it will take place between October 2 and October 9. Members are asked to attend informational meetings about the new agreement in New York, Los Angeles and Zoom in the coming days. There, leaders will no doubt try to sell the deal to members and argue that the union’s severe strike gave them the leverage they needed to wrest these conditions away from major industrial employers.
The studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and the union finally announced a tentative new three-year contract Sunday night after a full weekend of contract work. After nearly a month of stalled negotiations, progress accelerated beginning Sept. 20, when both sides met with major industry leaders (Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslau and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley) at AMPTP’s Sherman Oaks headquarters. With top executives in the room, studios have shifted their stances on issues such as minimum staffing in TV writers’ rooms and rewarding writers for the success of projects in streaming. Terms on artificial intelligence proved to be a sticking point, but the two sides eventually reached a compromise by Sunday night. In a communication to members about the deal on Sunday, the WGA called the resulting deal “exceptional.”
On Tuesday, the WGA West Board and WGA East Council approved an agreement that set up a vote to end the injunction against AMPTP member companies.
The news ends one half of entertainment’s historic labor conflict, the longest double strike in Hollywood in more than 60 years. SAG-AFTRA is still on strike, and neither that union nor AMPTP has yet announced new bargaining dates for the parties. Tuesday evening, In a post on Instagram, SAG-AFTRA’s leadership sought to dispel speculation about meeting dates with studios and streamers. “At this time, we do not have any confirmed dates to meet with AMPTP. Once we have the dates confirmed, we will let you know. Unless you hear it from us, it’s hearsay,” the post said.
SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP are deadlocked over general wage increases, a plan to cut platform subscribers’ revenue when union members’ streaming projects succeed, and regulations related to artificial intelligence. Even if writers return to work, production cannot resume in any meaningful way without key artists.