The Writers Guild of America announced in a memo on Tuesday that its members have overwhelmingly approved the pattern of demands set forth by leadership for its upcoming contract negotiation talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, setting the stage for negotiations to begin on March 20.
98.4% of the 5,643 votes were in favor of approving the pattern of demands, with only 90 votes against. For comparison, in 2020, 3,336 members voted, with 90.7% (3,028) voting yes and 9.3% (308) voting no.
In recent weeks, the WGA has held membership meetings to gather input on priorities for the upcoming talks. As expected, the topic of streaming residuals and wages was raised as a primary issue, as the guild is expected to push for a payment scale reflective of the industry-wide shift to streaming services since the last Writers Guild strike in 2007-08.
Another issue included in the pattern of demands is the use of “mini-rooms,” where writer teams meet to plan episodes and write scripts before production begins or even before a project is officially picked up by a studio. Writers have accused studios of using mini-rooms to get writers to work for lower wages, leading the guild to publish a blog post encouraging members to be diligent in negotiating their pay and insisting that they be paid the same quote as for a traditional writers room session.
Other points in the pattern of demands include consistent pay for writers through all stages of the production process, expansion of minimum wage guarantees to accommodate for the expected shift of late-night comedy shows from over-the-top television to streaming, and regulation of writing material created by artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT.
The upcoming talks come in the midst of a radically changed climate for the entertainment industry than seen during the last round of contract negotiations in 2020, when studios were pushing to launch new streaming services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, those studios are dialing back their investment in streaming as billions of dollars in film and TV projects have been cut or removed from streaming services and media stocks have tumbled. Despite this downturn, the WGA hinted at its approach to this round of talks in a blog post that reflected on the 2007-08 writers’ strike.
“Despite their pattern of catastrophic predictions, the studios have successfully monetized every major modern technological advancement to not only stay afloat but thrive,” the WGA said. “Along the way, they made vague promises that key players like writers would get their fair share at some point. If history has taught nothing else, it has shown that with each new technological advancement within the industry, the real risk is that writers, and other talent, will not receive equitable compensation for the reuse of their work.”