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Writers widely condemned the decision by Hollywood’s studios to go public with a recent contract proposal to their union, whose members have been on the picket lines for nearly four months.
Writers who spoke to TheWrap Wednesday expressed doubts about whether negotiations will be able to continue in good faith.
Late Tuesday night, after the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers publicly released a six-page document outlining the proposal it sent to the Writers Guild of America’s negotiating committee on Aug. 11, the guild released a memo to members with its own account of the meeting that happened just prior to that publication with several top studio heads, including Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav.
“This wasn’t a meeting to make a deal. This was a meeting to get us to cave, which is why, not 20 minutes after we left the meeting, the AMPTP released its summary of their proposals,” the WGA’s memo read. “This was the companies’ plan from the beginning — not to bargain, but to jam us. It is their only strategy — to bet that we will turn on each other.”
Several WGA members who spoke to TheWrap on Wednesday asked to remain anonymous, citing the still-fluid and uncertain nature of the talks between the guild and AMPTP. But they all expressed frustration with the AMPTP’s decision to go public and see it as a tactic that they believe will backfire.
“The word that comes to mind is ‘desperate,’” said one TV staff writer who has been a WGA member for seven years. “They’re trying to either get us to settle for less thinking we’ll push our committee to take what they’re offering and get back to work or make us look unreasonable in the eyes of the public hoping they don’t understand that we’re digging our heels in because if we don’t get what we’re demanding, writing won’t be a sustainable profession.”
A retired married couple who have both been WGA members for decades said they fear that even if the AMPTP proposal doesn’t sway writers, it may damage the labor solidarity that has come to define Hollywood’s double strike this summer.
While thousands of entertainment workers, particularly below-the-line IATSE crew members and Teamsters drivers, have faced financial strain because of the work stoppage, thousands of members of those unions and others marched together nationwide on Tuesday for a “National Day of Solidarity” hosted by SAG-AFTRA.
“The support from IATSE and Teamsters has been incredible. They have the most to lose from this strike, but they have supported us and we need to support them,” one of the retired writers said. “I don’t see any reason why the studios would release this proposal other than to try to get those crew workers to lose their support for the union, and we need to stand firm against it.”
The AMPTP proposal shows some movement from the studios on key issues, including an offer to present the WGA with quarterly confidential reports on the streaming viewership of films and TV shows as well as protections against labor misclassification that would lead to writers being paid less if being asked to adapt material written by generative artificial intelligence.
But on social media, several WGA members expressed deep skepticism about some elements of the proposal, most notably an offer to allow showrunners to select up to two “mid-level” writers to be involved in the production process with 20 weeks of guaranteed pay. Writer Amy Thurlow pointed out that the provision only applies to high budget streaming and pay TV series, which comprise a fraction of the TV shows produced each year.
“It does nothing to address the broad issues of four writers doing the work of 10, and those lucky four people not being able to pay their rent bc they have to make eight weeks of employment with a 25% rep tax last 52+ weeks,” Thurlow wrote in a Twitter thread.
Former WGA West board member David Slack also pointed out that the title of “showrunner” does not currently have an explicit definition in WGA’s bargaining agreement, meaning that studios could simply structure TV shows so that show creators are not able to use the mid-level writer provision.
“Unless the term ‘showrunner’ is rigorously defined as a writer in our MBA — which it presently isn’t — there’s nothing to stop the studios from saying, ‘You’re just the head writer. Exec X is the showrunner now and they select zero writers,’” Slack wrote.
A strike captain who spoke to TheWrap also added that unlike the AMPTP’s proposal, the WGA’s proposal actually ensures opportunities for younger staff writers to gain experience in the production process. The common description of “mid-level” writers refers to writer-producer positions, meaning writers who already have production experience to start with.
“We have a series of interlocking proposals that protect against them… imposing upon us the system that animation writers have to live under, with no residuals and no rooms, basically a freelance model,” the strike captain said. “If they’re allowed to keep pushing us in that direction, we’re going to end up with no pension, no health care.”
At time of publication, WGA members were waiting for further information from their negotiating committee about the next steps in the negotiations, if there are any at all. But the retired couple who spoke to TheWrap said they were unsure based on the last memo they received from the guild whether there can truly be any more progress towards a strike-ending deal.
“All this does is make me wonder if there’s been no progress since Aug. 11,” one of them said. “If they were so quick to put this out to the public, is there going to be any room left for more talks in good faith?”
For all of TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.