Hollywood writers belonging to the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike on Tuesday, marking the first strike in the industry for 15 years. The strike comes as the WGA’s contract expired, and the union demanded higher minimum pay, more writers per show, and less exclusivity on single projects. The WGA is also seeking more regulation around the use of artificial intelligence, which could give producers a shortcut to finishing their work. Writers say they have been made to make less under shifting and insecure conditions that the WGA called “a gig economy inside a union workforce.”
The impact of the strike was felt immediately, as all of the top late-night shows immediately went dark, with plans for reruns through the week. If the strike persisted through the summer, the fall TV schedules could be upended. The strike’s impact on scripted series and films will likely take longer to notice, though some shows, including Showtime’s “Yellowjackets,” have already paused production on forthcoming seasons.
The WGA’s demands include more compensation for writers upfront because many of the payments writers have historically profited from on the back end, like syndication and international licensing, have been largely phased out by the onset of streaming. The union is seeking more regulation around the use of artificial intelligence, which the WGA’s writers say could give producers a shortcut to finishing their work. The AMPTP presented an offer with “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals,” but was unwilling to improve its offer because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon.
The strike was expected by the writers, but the breakoff of contractual talks hours before a deadline left some surprised, some worried, and some determined. Writers say the strike is a turning point in the industry, and if they do not get back to even, they never will. The last Hollywood strike, from the same union in 2007 and 2008, took three months to resolve. There are no talks or even plans to talk pending between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios and productions companies, making it uncertain how long writers will have to go without pay or how many major productions will be delayed, shortened, or scrapped.
The strike affects 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America who stopped working when their contract expired. The union is seeking to address the changing nature of the industry, which has become increasingly driven by streaming services that have disrupted the traditional distribution and monetization models of TV and film. Some actors, including Rob Lowe, have joined the picket lines in support of the writers in Los Angeles. Many striking writers are hybrids who combine writing with other roles. The other side of their hyphenated role could be in the same space soon, with many of the same issues at the center of negotiations for both the actors union SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America. Contracts for both unions expire in June.