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Hollywood Writers Reach a Tentative Deal to End Strike

-Editorial

The Writers Guild of America and the labor group representing studios and streamers have reached a tentative deal on a new contract in a major development that could end of a 146-day writers’ strike.

“WGA has reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP,” said in an email to members. “This was made possible by the enduring solidarity of WGA members and extraordinary support of our union siblings who joined us on the picket lines for over 146 days.”

The three-year contract agreement must be approved by the guild’s board and members before the strike officially ends.

One of the main focus points in the labor dispute was the residuals from streaming media; the WGA claims that AMPTP’s share of such residuals has cut much of the writers’ average incomes compared to a decade ago.

Writers also wanted artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT, to be used only as a tool that can help with research or facilitate script ideas and not as a tool to replace them. The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath saw major reductions in the workforce and cancellations of multiple film and television productions to save money on basic residuals and music licensing costs, though Apple and Amazon remained outliers. The ensuing fall of “Peak TV” created worsening conditions for writers, as well as actors.

On May 2, 2020, the latest Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) became the collective bargaining agreement that covered most of the work done by WGA writers.

The Minimum Basic Agreement was an agreement that established a minimum wage for television and film writers. In television, the Minimum Basic Agreement only applied to those who wrote for broadcast television shows and not for streaming television. This was very clear when comparing late-night talk shows that were produced for broadcast television, such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert by CBS, versus The Problem with Jon Stewart, produced for streaming by Apple TV+. The writers who worked for The Problem were not covered by the MBA and therefore had to negotiate individually with the streaming company for their pay, as a result, they were paid less than writers who wrote for The Late Show while doing the same amount of work. This pattern held with other shows in the two categories. The MBA expired on May 1, 2023.

The WGA estimated that its proposals would yield writers about US$429 million a year, whereas the AMPTP’s offer would yield $86 million.

One disputed issue is the Guild wanting requirements for “mandatory staffing” and “duration of employment” terms to be added to their contract, which would require all shows to be staffed with a minimum number of writers for a minimum amount of time, “whether needed or not” per the AMPTP.

Another important proposal that the WGA is advocating for is to ensure each member of a writing team receives their pension and their health care funds. The AMPTP rejected this proposal and did not offer a counterproposal. At the same time, there was a tentative agreement between the WGA and AMPTP to have 0.5% of negotiated minimums for all WGA minimums shifted into pensions and health funds.

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