Hollywood is breathing a sigh of relief. The WGA, major studios and streaming companies have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract that promises to end a 146-day strike that has taken a toll on the content industry.
Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reached the finish line Sunday after five straight days of negotiations. The fourth day on Saturday involved mostly union and AMPTP lawyers discussing the finer details of the language around the complex and groundbreaking additions to the WGA’s core minimum agreement. The nitty-gritty of the language around the use of generative AI in content production was one of the last items the two sides worked on before concluding the agreement.
“We can say, with pride, that this deal is exceptional — with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every membership segment,” the WGA negotiating committee wrote in an email sent to members at 7:10 p.m. PT. text below).
The strike itself will remain in effect through the union contract approval and ratification process. But the sit-in was suspended as of Sunday evening. Union leaders are expected to vote on Tuesday on whether to formally lift the strike order against the AMPTP signatories.
“To be clear, no one may return to work except after receiving specific permission from the union. We remain on strike until then,” the letter to members said.
Details of the contract agreement will not be released until final language is finalized in the coming days. WGA leadership expects to vote Tuesday on the final agreement. First, the negotiating committee will vote on whether to recommend the deal be referred to a vote by the WGA West Board of Directors and the WGA East Board. Assuming both votes approve the agreement, the contract will be sent for ratification by the WGA’s 11,000 members.
“Although we are keen to share with you the details of what has been achieved, we cannot do so until the final point is made,” the letter to members said. “Doing so would complicate our ability to finish the mission. As you have been patient with us before, we ask for your patience again – for the last time.
After nearly five months on strike — the work stoppage began on May 2 — this strike is very likely to be well received by members, especially with the enthusiastic endorsement of WGA leaders. As momentum builds this week, negotiators have begun to view the approaching Yom Kippur holiday on Sunday as an easy deadline.
SAG-AFTRA, which has been on strike since July 14, issued a statement congratulating the WGA. “SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resilience and solidarity on the picket lines,” she said. “While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary conditions for our members. Since the day it began WGA Strike, SAG-AFTRA Members Stand Together with Writers on Picket Lines We remain on strike in our TV/theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio, streaming and AMPTP CEOs to come back to the table and get the fair deal our members deserve and demand.
The UAGA undoubtedly prevailed in forcing Hollywood’s largest employers to address the union’s key priorities in its first full contract negotiations since 2017 (2020 talks were hampered by the pandemic). The union’s insistence on achieving a guaranteed minimum staffing level for episodic television series was a longshot when contract discussions began in March. The unwavering support of the vast majority of WGA members was the force that allowed the union’s bargaining committee, led by Chris Keyser and David Goodman, to consider priority issues. They achieved a new model residual flow formula that would aid fellow striking unionists SAG-AFTRA in their quest to achieve a revenue-based residual. The WGA formula is a rewards system based on high-quality, pre-determined performance criteria for individual titles. Still, that’s more than industry dealmakers expected the union would secure when the first round of WGA-AMPTP talks began in earnest last spring.
The end of the WGA strike will hasten the end of the SAG-AFTRA walkout. It will also begin the process of returning the creative community to its typical cycles of production, distribution, marketing and content promotion. Television and film production has been in turmoil since the beginning of the year when production slowed in the face of a May 1 deadline set by the expiration of the WGA contract. It was no secret early last year that the 2023 round of union contract negotiations would be difficult, given the level of structural change across TV and film.
Hollywood is eager to get back to work. But after shutting down production for five months, studios and streamers will need time to get the shows and movies back on track. As news of progress at the negotiating table spread earlier this week, quiet planning for a return to production escalated with producers and executives inquiring about the availability of stages and other production resources.
The two parties returned to the negotiating table on September 20 after talks stopped for a month. Four key Hollywood leaders participated in three days of marathon negotiations, finally breaking the stalemate. Executives: Disney’s Bob Iger, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Warner Bros.’ David Zaslav. Discovery.
AMPTP first attempted to address the union’s demands for guaranteed residual viewership and minimum staffing in a proposal submitted on August 11. The WGA asserted that the offer was full of loopholes and exceptions that rendered many of its provisions meaningless.
The AMPTP returned on September 20 with another set of proposals, which it hoped would break the impasse.
Once Labor Day came and went, WGA Negotiating Committee co-chairs Chris Keyser and David Goodman faced increasing internal pressure from some prominent members to restart the negotiation process. Now that an agreement has been reached with the WGA, AMPTP negotiators will turn their attention to SAG-AFTRA, which has been on strike since July 14. Production and promotion cannot fully resume until SAG-AFTRA members vote to ratify a new agreement.
The WGA Negotiating Committee issued a lengthy statement to members confirming that tentative agreement had been reached.
Here is the full text:
We have reached agreement in principle on the new MBA for 2023, which means agreement in principle on all points of the deal, subject to the wording of the final contract language.
What we have won in this decade – and, in particular, everything we have gained since May 2 – is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk shoulder to shoulder, to endure pain and grief. Uncertainty over the past 146 days. It is the leverage generated by your strike, coordinated with the extraordinary support of our union brothers, that has finally brought companies back to the table to make a deal.
We can say, with pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protection for writers in every membership sector.
What remains now is for our staff to ensure that everything we have agreed upon is written into the final contract language. Although we are keen to share with you the details of what has been achieved, we cannot do so until the final ‘i’ is in place. Doing so would complicate our ability to finish the job. Just as you were patient with us before, we ask you to be patient again – for the last time.
Once the Memorandum of Agreement with AMPTP is complete, the Negotiating Committee will vote on whether to recommend the agreement and send it to the WGAW Board of Directors and the WGAE Council for approval. The Board and Council will then vote on whether to authorize a vote on ratification of the contract by members.
If this authorization is approved, the Board and Council will also vote on whether to lift the restraining order and end the strike at a certain date and time (to be determined) pending ratification. This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the members’ right to make a final decision on whether to approve the contract.
Immediately after this leadership vote, which is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday if the language is settled, we will provide a comprehensive summary of the deal points and memorandum of agreement. We will also hold meetings where members will have the opportunity to learn more about the agreement and evaluate it before voting on its ratification.
To clarify, no one may return to work except after obtaining specific permission from the union. We are still on strike until then. But, effective today, we are suspending WGA picketing. Alternatively, if you’re able, we encourage you to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines this week.
Finally, we appreciate your patience while waiting for news from us – and having to fend off rumors – during the last few days of negotiations. Please wait for more information from the guild. We will have more to share with you in the coming days, as we finalize the drafting of the contract and review our union operations.
As always, thanks for your support. You will hear from us again very soon.
WGA Negotiating Committee
David A. Goodman, co-chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Ellen Stutzman, lead negotiator
Daniel Sanchez Wetzel
Patrick M. Veron
By virtue of his position
Meredith Stemm, WGAW President
Michelle Mulroney, Vice President of WGAW
Betsy Thomas, WGAW Treasurer
Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, President, WGAE
Erica Saleh, WGAE Vice President of Film/TV/Streaming
Christopher Kyle, WGAE Treasurer
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