Hollywood writers overwhelmingly approve strike

The Writers Guild of America overwhelmingly approved a strike should contract negotiations fail. The strike, should it occur, could begin May 2.

Demonstration during previous Hollywood writers' strike, 2007. (Via Wikipedia entry on writers' strikes, GNU 1.2 license)

LOS ANGELES, April 26, 2017 – Members of the Writers Guild of America have authorized a strike should contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers fail. A strike could start as early as May 2 if issues are not resolved by a May 1 deadline.

The WGA said 96.3% of its members authorized the strike, drawing a response from the producers group, which claimed it is committed to reaching a deal that keeps the industry working.

The last big Hollywood writers strike occurred in 2007 and lasted for a painful 100 days. In current contract negotiations, the Writers Guild is largely focused on how streaming platforms have adversely affected compensation in recent years.

Reportedly, a strike next month can still be prevented if the WGA and Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers can reach a deal this week. Talks are scheduled to resume Thursday. The strike deadline could be extended if both sides think they are close to reaching a deal.

If a strike were to begin, the most immediate effect would be felt on late-night shows including Saturday Night Live (SNL), The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Each episode for these late-night shows is written on a day by day basis as monologues, comic bits and skits are often based on highly perishable breaking news, gossip and political stories. Next in line, scripted shows would be forced to end their seasons early, and the summer TV season could suffer serious damage from the strike as well, should it occur.

Some of the key issues involved in the strike threat involve the WGA’s health plan, which is facing a deficit; protecting the WGA’s current pension plan; and approval of family leave. Compensation, of course, is the other central issue at play, given the growing trends toward live and streaming media, something not really addressed in earlier contracts.

The producers’ alliance released a statement saying, in part,

“The companies are committed to reaching a deal at the bargaining table that keeps the industry working. The 2007 writers’ strike hurt everyone. Writers lost more than $287 million in compensation that was never recovered.”

The upcoming strike, should it occur, would not only have an impact on unionized writers, but also on tens of thousands of workers in and around the entertainment industry, including drivers, caterers, dry cleaners, set carpenters and others who make Hollywood’s wheels turn 24/7.

The bitter 2007 writers strike caused $2.5 billion in economic losses for Los Angeles, something negotiators would like to avoid this time around.

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