WGA Strike-Authorization Vote Kicks Off at Packed Guild Meeting

WGA Placeholder Contract Negotiations
Images: Shutterstock; Illustration: Variety

The parking garage at the Sheraton Universal was filled with Hondas and Toyotas Tuesday night as WGA members gathered for a meeting to kick off a vote on whether to authorize a work stoppage. The meeting is the first of three set to take place this week in the Los Angeles area and New York.

Voting on a strike authorization was slated to begin Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. PT and conclude at noon PT on April 24.

“Yeah, definitely,” one guild member said after the meeting when asked whether the majority of attendees appeared to be voting yes on a strike authorization. The writer described long lines of members waiting to cast their ballots at the meeting, which was closed to the public.

But that same member cautioned against reading too much into the room’s atmosphere. “The thing will be decided online,” the writer said, referring to online voting set to begin Wednesday.

“It was a joyous affair,” another guild member told Variety leaving the meeting Tuesday night. Many flashed thumbs up. “Go union,” another shouted.

“If we don’t authorize a strike, we’re in a terrible position,” one writer was overheard saying. Another described a capacity and lively crowd inside the ballroom, which seated 900 people. Attendees began to trickle out of the room at 8:30 p.m., as the question-and-answer portion of the meeting began, after guild leaders laid out the key negotiating points.

One veteran showrunner said there was a strong sense of solidarity in the room. At the same time, the WGA negotiating committee members who led the meeting — Chip Johannessen, Chris Keyser and Billy Ray — left the impression that the contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers remain a “professional” process. The hope is that the sides can reach an agreement at the bargaining table next week and avoid a work stoppage.

One writer described the meeting as having gone “as expected” save a few off-the-wall moments in the Q&A session — such as when one member suggested that the guild save money by ending publication of its magazine, Written By.

Prior to the start of the meeting, writers gathered in clumps in the bar a floor above the ballroom. Downstairs, they loaded up on burgers, fruit salad, and coffee provided by the guild. Some members could be overheard wondering whether it was OK to bring drinks from the bar inside the meeting. It was.

One writer, before the meeting began, characterized guild members who were active at the time of the 2007-08  writers’ strike as being most wary of a possible work stoppage, and newer guild members as advocating a more aggressive stance. The wealthiest and most successful members, the writer added, “are the ones complaining the most about not getting paid enough.”

Another member volunteering to assist with vote organization predicted that a strike authorization would pass, but perhaps not with the turnout necessary to send a strong message to studio negotiators across the table. “We may get 90% [of the vote], but like 12 writers voting,” the member joked.

Prior to the meeting’s start, guild staff could be seen carrying in the boxes into which attendees would cast the first ballots of the authorization vote.

Online voting for WGA West members was set to begin at 8:30 p.m. PT on Wednesday after the start of another meeting in Beverly Hills, where members would be encouraged to vote in person.

The membership meetings will feature WGA leaders and members of the negotiating committee discussing the state of the contract talks, the state of the industry, and rallying support for the strike authorization vote.

On Monday, the WGA and the AMPTP suspended talks on a new labor agreement, scheduling them to resume April 25, the day after the strike-authorization vote ends. Negotiations between the WGA and the major studios began March 13 and lasted nearly two weeks, then resumed April 10.

The AMPTP had in December set a deal with the DGA that was expected to serve as a template for the current round of guild talks. But the WGA has brought several writer-specific issues to the table that were not relevant in negotiations with the directors’ guild, setting up a more challenging negotiation.

The AMPTP must is also facing a June 30 deadline to work out a performers’ contract with SAG-AFTRA. Those talks are set to follow the WGA negotiation.

Correction: A previous version of this story noted an incorrect start time for online voting.

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  1. Famous Hollywood Writer says:

    I am the top writer in Hollywood, including such hits as “Dunston Checks In” and the “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” sequel in development, and I think the strike is a bad idea. California needs the $. We can’t afford to lose anymore. Our roads and infrastructure is failing. Sad. Let’s make California Great again. Let’s remake “Dunston checks in”!

  2. Ashley Gable says:

    Hi, you have incorrect info about when online voting starts. It starts at 8:30 PM, not AM, today. Please correct.

  3. Lyndon B. johnson says:

    When the writers go on strike, I hope the studios hire scabs and we get the “Dunston Checks In” remake that movie-going audiences deserve!

  4. Hollywood Man 72 says:

    Instead of a strike, can we please get a remake of “Dunston Checks In”?

    Thanks.

  5. Rena Moretti says:

    Those “poor” union writers who have to drive Toyotas because they can’t make ends meet…

    The reality is that most of those who benefit from those contacts are highly-connected, often sons and daughters of the industry and far from poor…

    • The Truth says:

      Only a small percentage of Writers Guild members make a stable living from their writing. Most do not earn enough each year to qualify for the Guild’s group health insurance. And while contacts, connections, and nepotism play their respective roles in staffing and assignments, if you can’t consistently deliver competitive work, you won’t succeed, no matter who your friends and family are.

      Writers only want their fair share of the bounty the studios reap from their writing. When new income streams or production models are developed that enhance the monetization of their work, writers deserve equitable compensation for the increased value they provide.

      It’s a shame this situation has to get down to a strike call, because the writers aren’t asking for much. No writer is going to become a fat cat due to the WGA’s current labor agreement requests. But even though the studios are making more money than ever, they want to make the writers fight them for every penny of respect. That’s the game they’ve always played, and it’s no different now.

      • Rena Moretti says:

        Thanks for the interesting response. :)

        I would argue that the quality (or lack thereof) of the current TV shows and movies amply demonstrate that the current practice of hiring Friends and Family is applied regardless of quality.

        Most of the “working writers” are delivering tripe and the only possible excuse is that the executives actively want tripe (which is possible), but the idea that they are delivering pearls of great writing is in my view separate from reality.

        I have nothing against “equitable compensation” but that’s not what I get from the article and from a lot of the comments here. Rather, I do get the impression of a bunch of entitled Sons and Daughters of the Industry whining that their Tesla is already 2 years-old.

        On the “bounty” the studios get, I don’t believe it exists. The studios consistently exaggerate their box-office and the TV ratings have collapsed across the board (which by the way begs the question of how you can get a fee increase as the ratings crash down).

        In other words, the studios aren’t making “more money than ever”. Most are barely making any money and that’s because of their catalogs and output deals (which are likely not to be renewed or see vast cuts in prices – see firegn TV ratings for US shows for the reason why).

        I don’t mean, by the way, to defend the studios whom I hold responsible for destroying the US scripted industry, but the attitude of the privileges few who work is just a bit much to take.

        Their attitude of “we’re lying about how well the company is doing, you should know that” is of course hard to take for most writers who don’t follow the goings-on of the industry and particularly for the “working writers” who are told they’re brilliant and their TV show flop is a huge hit making billions…

    • Hard Working Writer says:

      Rena, you sound like a bitter, writer wannabe who has to ascribe traits to others (i.e. highly connected) in order to explain your lack of success. My advice is to keep writing scripts, you’ll probably become a better writer, and then you’ll have a better chance to find success. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you know or don’t know — if you can write a great script, you will get work. My father works for the DMV. I knew no one when I moved to L.A. I worked hard, I kept writing, and I found success because people liked the scripts I wrote.

      I wish you good luck.

      • Rena Moretti says:

        And just to give one obvious example, take The Mick, FOX’ incredibly awful (and thus very low-rated) “comedy”.

        It is written and produced by the children of Peter Chernin.

        Does anyone think this show would EVER have been made had it come from someone less connected?

      • Rena Moretti says:

        First of all, have you watched the movies and TV shows they produce today?

        Are you seriously going to tell me they were written by people with craft and talent?

        Second, when your main argument is name calling, do you really think you’re going to win the argument?

        I didn’t call you names. Why do you feel like you have to call me names?

        Frankly, it’s not what somebody incredibly talented would do. ;)

    • B says:

      you have no idea what you’re talking about.

  6. SPIKE says:

    here’s to the alt writers!

    • lindsey says:

      wtf are alt writers? you mean scabs? no one who takes work during a strike will ever have a career as a writer. anyone advocating on behalf of billion dollar media conglomerates over labor need to check themselves.

      • Rena Moretti says:

        Them’s fighting words… Scabs… Billion Dollar conglomerates…

        Of course what you don’t mention is that only insiders nowadays get those gigs and that if you’re not of the right lists, your career will be just as dead (even before it stated actually).

        Seeing privileged people act like they are the “Damned of the Earth” is indecent.

  7. Steve says:

    Hondas and Toyotas??? Not Beamers and Teslas?!!!

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