In its latest strike-era update to members, the Writers Guild of America is suggesting that studio member companies of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers break off from the organization and negotiate individual deals with the union.
As negotiations appear to be remaining at a standstill, the WGA’s negotiating committee told members in a Friday update that behind-the-scenes conversations with individual legacy studio executives amid the strike have shown a “desire and willingness to negotiate an agreement that adequately addresses writers’ issues.” The negotiating committee added that “Those same executives — and others — have said they are willing to negotiate on proposals that the AMPTP has presented to the public as deal breakers. On every single issue we are asking for we have had at least one legacy studio executive tell us they could accommodate us.”
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The union leaders then floated the idea that member companies break off from the AMPTP, which counts the production subsidiaries of Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and others as members, and negotiate their own deals with the WGA. “We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more of the major studios, outside the confines of the AMPTP, to establish the new WGA deal. There is no requirement that the companies negotiate through the AMPTP,” the negotiating committee wrote. They further suggested that strike-time “economic destabilization” or “Wall Street” might convince companies to pursue this strategy.
The negotiating committee further warned members that “until there is a breakthrough” the AMPTP “will try to sow doubt and internal guild dissension.” The WGA leaders argued that, instead, the member companies should “take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach.”
In a response on Friday night, the AMPTP argued that its member companies were “aligned” and are “negotiating together to reach a resolution.” The organization added, “Any suggestion to the contrary is false.” The AMPTP further claimed that it had made major steps forward on its A.I. proposal and that the WGA remained “entrenched” on its mandatory staffing position. The AMPTP continued, “The WGA has achieved substantial gains for its members during this negotiation process and holds the power to move this negotiation forward by responding to the AMPTP’s most recent offers on key issues.”
Some 11,500 members of the WGA have been on strike against AMPTP member companies for about 130 days. According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, entertainment has seen around 17,000 jobs lost amid the writers strike, combined with an ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike affecting industry performers. Industry workers are facing eviction notices and in some cases are living in cars or with their families as the work stoppages drag on, Entertainment Community Fund executive director of the western region Keith McNutt recently told THR.
Read the WGA’s message below.
We know that people are anxious for information about the status of the negotiation – and how difficult it can be to stay strong during periods of silence – which is only exacerbated by the companies’ recent attempts to make an end run around the Negotiating Committee and confuse the narrative. What follows is an update on where we are and how we got here. We share things we have not shared up until now, including conversations with individual executives that illustrate how some of the companies can already see a path toward making a deal, while other members of the AMPTP are not there yet.
In the 130 days since the WGA strike began, the AMPTP has only offered one proposal to the WGA, on August 11th. Since then, the companies have not moved off that proposal, even though the WGA in turn presented our own counterproposal to the AMPTP on August 15th. The current standstill is not a sign of the companies’ power, but of AMPTP paralysis.
The studios and streamers bargaining together through the AMPTP have disparate business models and interests, as well as different histories and relationships with unions. They are competitors in all respects, except when they band together to deal with Hollywood labor. Through the AMPTP, these legacy studios and streamers negotiate as a united front which allows hard liners to dictate the course of action for all the companies. The AMPTP purports to represent all of these disparate corporate interests, but in practice administers a system that favors inflexibility over compromise, and sacrifices the interests of individual companies in reaching a deal. That regression to the hardest line has produced the first simultaneous strikes since 1960.
In contrast, during individual conversations with legacy studio executives in the weeks since SAG-AFTRA went on strike, we have heard both the desire and willingness to negotiate an agreement that adequately addresses writers’ issues. One executive said they had reviewed our proposals, and though they did not commit to a specific deal, said our proposals would not affect their company’s bottom line and that they recognized they must give more than usual to settle this negotiation. Another said they needed a deal badly. Those same executives – and others – have said they are willing to negotiate on proposals that the AMPTP has presented to the public as deal breakers. On every single issue we are asking for we have had at least one legacy studio executive tell us they could accommodate us.
So, while the intransigence of the AMPTP structure is impeding progress, these behind-the-scenes conversations demonstrate there is a fair deal to be made that addresses our issues. Given the outsized economic impact of the strikes on the legacy companies, their individual studio interest in making a deal isn’t surprising. Warner Bros. confirmed this in a public financial filing just this week.
We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more of the major studios, outside the confines of the AMPTP, to establish the new WGA deal. There is no requirement that the companies negotiate through the AMPTP. So, if the economic destabilization of their own companies isn’t enough to cause a studio or two or three to either assert their own self-interest inside the AMPTP, or to break away from the broken AMPTP model, perhaps Wall Street will finally make them do it.
Until there is a breakthrough, the companies and AMPTP will try to sow doubt and internal guild dissension. Keep your radar up. When the companies send messages through surrogates or the press about the unreasonableness of your guild leadership, take those messages as part of a bad-faith effort to influence negotiations and not as the objective truth.
The companies know the truth: they must negotiate if they want to end the strike. They may not like it – they may try to obscure it – but they know it. While they wrestle with that fact and with each other, they will continue attempting to get writers to settle for less than what we need and deserve, and encourage us to negotiate with ourselves. But we are not going to do that.
Instead, the companies inside the AMPTP who want a fair deal with writers must take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach.
We understand how painful this time is for everyone. We are all tired and hurting and scared. There is nothing wrong with saying so. The optimism for a return to negotiation has been met with a harsh reminder of how fraught this process can be. We share the frustration with how long the companies are prolonging the strike, and remain committed to negotiating a fair resolution as fast as possible.
In the meantime, as always, you can find your Negotiating Committee and Board and Council members out on the picket lines. When there is anything of significance to report, we will write again.
WGA NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE
Sept. 8, 8:27 p.m. Updated with the AMPTP’s response.
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