Writers Guild of America’s two boards voted unanimously to send a vote to its membership, raising the stakes in the contract wrangling with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

The board of the WGA West and council of the WGA East have approved the recommendation from the WGA negotiating committee to conduct a strike authorization vote among members of both guilds who have worked under the AMPTP master contract during the past six years — about 6,000 members i total. The negotiating committee took that step on Friday after ending two weeks of contract talks with the AMPTP. The current Minimum Basic Agreement, jointly negotiated by West and East, expires on May 1.

The strike authorization vote does not mean the writers will automatically walk. But a vote by the membership is necessary before the governing bodies of both guilds can call a strike against the studios. The turnout and vote on the authorization question will also be a bellwether of how strongly the membership feels about a work stoppage if the sides can’t come to terms on contract demands.

The AMPTP was critical of the guild for ending talks last Friday. As of Tuesday afternoon there was no word on a date for the sides to return to the bargaining table at the AMPTP’s Encino headquarters. Reps for WGA East and West did not respond to requests for comment. The AMPTP declined comment.

The WGA last sought a strike authorization vote against the major studios in October 2007, about a month before the guild went out for 100 days. That vote drew record turnout and more than 90% approval for the strike authorization.

Ballots for the latest strike authorization vote could be out as early as next week.