The Writers Guild of America has responded to recent proposals from studios. The organization noted that progress had been made, but offers received have not been good enough.
The WGA says progress has been made, but it will continue fighting
In an email to its members, the WGA commented on its recent round of discussions with studios and addressed a variety of points they covered. Namely, the WGA said that studios are willing to solidify a set TV staff size in its contract.
“But the loopholes, limitations, and omissions in their modest proposal, too numerous to single out, make them effectively toothless,” the guild stated (via Variety).
When it came to the fight over better residuals over films and TV series on streaming services, the WGA said that the AMPTP (the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) offered to provide streaming viewership data to a handful of WGA staffers. This could then be used to help craft a proposal for viewership-based residuals.
Earlier this week, the AMPTP released its proposals following a meeting between various studios and WGA leadership. The move was swiftly criticized by the WGA, who claimed that the AMPTP had said it would be doing so to speak directly to the WGA’s membership.
The union called the move “a tactic in the middle of an ongoing negotiation,” and said it wouldn’t be negotiating via press releases.
Speaking to Variety, an anonymous writer claims that won’t be the case.
“They think the Neg Comm is the problem. They think there’s this alternate WGA that they need to reach,” said one writer, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “That’s not true. The entire membership are pretty much united. We’re ready to wait it out until we get a good deal.”
While the WGA’s email did note that “progress had been made,” it seems as if the two sides are still too far apart to come to a deal as of now. The strike, which began on May 2, 2023, has now been happening for more 115 days, making it the third-longest strike in WGA history according to WGA Board Member David Slack.
The full WGA memo sent out to members on August 24, 2023, can be seen below:
During the meeting with the CEOs we spent two hours explaining that, though progress had been made, the language of the AMPTP’s offer was, as is typical of that body, a version of giving with one hand and taking back with the other.
We repeated what we have said since day one, that our demands come directly from the membership itself. They address the existential threats to the profession of writing and to our individual careers, all caused by changes to the business model implemented by the companies in the last seven to ten years. We stressed that we could not and would not pick and choose among those threats; that we have not struck for nearly four months to half-save ourselves, nor are we leaving any sector of this Guild unprotected when we return to work. We are willing to negotiate within these areas, but every existential issue must be met with a genuine solution.
At the end of the meeting, the companies told us they intended to go directly to our membership by releasing information on their August 11th proposal to the media “within the next 24 hours.” They released a six-page document 20 minutes after the meeting concluded.
This should be seen as what it is, simply a tactic in the middle of an ongoing negotiation.
We aren’t going to negotiate by press release, so won’t go through the AMPTP’s characterization of its August 11th proposal in detail, but here are some broad strokes that may already be apparent:
Many of the current deal points they have put forward – minimums, SVOD residuals, AVOD terms – are from a deal negotiated with the DGA more than 80 days ago.
Member power – the strike – forced the companies to negotiate on more issues than they were willing to as of May 1, but still in the typical AMPTP mode of seeming to give while limiting the actual gains. Here are a few examples of areas they’ve made proposals that are not yet good enough:
- In screen, they have proposed a second step but only for a statistically tiny category of screenwriters, excluding all but the first writers of original screenplays. They dismissed the concept of weekly pay.
- They have ceded selected – but insufficient – minimum terms for some-but not all-Appendix A writers in SVOD. For example, while comedy-variety is covered, game show writers, daytime writers, and all other Appendix A writers are not covered.
- In television, the companies have introduced the notion of an MBA guarantee of minimum staff size and duration. But the loopholes, limitations, and omissions in their modest proposal, too numerous to single out, make them effectively toothless.
- Teams of two writers would receive P&H contributions as individuals. But not teams of three or more.
- We have had real discussions and seen movement on their part regarding AI protections. But we are not yet where we need to be. As one example, they continue to refuse to regulate the use of our work to train AI to write new content for a motion picture.
- Finally, the companies say they have made a major concession by offering to allow six WGA staff to study limited streaming viewership data for the next three years, so we can return in 2026 to ask once again for a viewership-based residual. In the meantime, no writer can be told by the WGA about how well their project is doing, much less receive a residual based on that data.
The companies’ counteroffer is neither nothing, nor nearly enough. We will continue to advocate for proposals that fully address our issues rather than accept half measures like those mentioned above and other proposals not listed here.
One last reminder illustrates why the AMPTP’s current stance doesn’t make sense. As we have repeated from the first day of our first member meeting – and on every day of this strike – our demands are fair and reasonable, and the companies can afford them. Here is the cost to each company of our current asks on the table, including the addition of increased health funding to address the impact of the strike.
Weigh this against the cost of not making a deal: the cost to 11,500 writers; to actors, crews and drivers; to anyone who works in and around the business but is not on strike; to the economies of California and New York and everywhere film and television is made; to consumers, pension plans and other shareholders; and to the companies themselves. It makes no sense. And everybody but the AMPTP knows it.
In the last 36 hours the response from the membership is that you are undeterred by this latest tactic. Despite the AMPTP’s attempt at a detour around us, we remain committed to direct negotiations with the companies. That’s actually how a deal gets made and the strike ends. That will be good for the rest of the industry and the companies as well.
Until then, we will see you on the picket lines.
WGA NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE