WGA Resumes Talks With Studios, Evaluating Counterproposal to End Strike

Writers Guild will return with their response to AMPTP next week, according to a memo to members

WGA AMPTP Guild talks start
(Credit: Christopher Smith for TheWrap)

The Writers Guild of America announced on Friday that it’s formally resuming negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on a new contract, potentially opening an avenue to the end of a writers strike that has gripped Hollywood for the past three months.

“Your Negotiating Committee received a counterproposal from the AMPTP today,” the WGA wrote in a memo to its members on Friday afternoon. “We will evaluate their offer and, after deliberation, go back to them with the WGA’s response next week.”

“Sometimes more progress can be made in negotiations when they are conducted without a blow-by-blow description of the moves on each side and a subsequent public dissection of the meaning of the moves,” the statement continued. “That will be our approach, at least for the time being, until there is something of significance to report, or unless management uses the media or industry surrogates to try to influence the narrative.”

The announcement came after a second meeting Friday between AMPTP President Carol Lombardini and WGA leadership, which included WGA West President Meredith Stiehm and chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman, after the two sides met a week ago to state their current stances on the sticking points that caused them to end talks on May 1 without a deal.

In the Friday memo, the WGA also clarified it would update its members when there is any news to share, encouraging striking writers to keep showing up to picket lines across the country.

“The Guild always has the right to communicate with our members and will do so when we think there is news you need to know,” the memo said. “In the meantime, please continue to demonstrate your commitment by showing up to the picket lines: for yourselves, your fellow writers, SAG-AFTRA, fellow union members and all those in our community who are impacted by the strikes.”

When the WGA and AMPTP met last week, the two sides discussed “a potential negotiation protocol and a preview of the issues each side intends to bring back to the table upon resumption,” according to a WGA memo to members.

The WGA reiterated its requirement that the AMPTP provide a counterproposal that responds to all of its key concerns in order for talks to continue, and also said that several strike-related issues would need to be negotiated, including protections for writers that do not wish to return to work until a deal with SAG-AFTRA is also reached.

In the memo, the WGA says that AMPTP expressed willingness to discuss some key issues but not others, and that it would need to meet with its member studios before providing a full counterproposal.

Foremost among the WGA’s demands are new rules that would, in the words of its negotiating committee, “codify the writers’ room” and negate recent trends on streaming TV shows that have seen less experienced writers only get hired for “mini-rooms” prior to the start of a show’s production process. Most, if not all of those writers, are not kept on with the showrunner during actual production, preventing them from gaining the experience needed to work their way up to higher positions on future projects.

In May, the AMPTP said in a document outlining its stance on the WGA’s proposal that the guild’s proposals on writers’ rooms, including requiring a minimum number of staff writers hired for TV shows throughout the production process, were too inflexible.

Another core issue for writers is artificial intelligence. While language already exists in previous WGA contracts forbidding the use of scripts written by AI, the guild wants more regulations added including a ban on the use of AI-generated writing as credited source material to adapt from. During talks this past spring, AMPTP only offered an annual meeting with the guild to discuss developments on AI use in the entertainment industry rather than any hard regulations.

While details on the latest offer made by the AMPTP for this new round of talks were not disclosed in the guild’s memo, the AMPTP has offered more detailed regulations on consent, compensation, and use of artificial intelligence in its ratified contract with the Directors Guild of America and in its latest offer to SAG-AFTRA, which has also been on strike since July 14.

During this second round of negotiations, WGA members will remain on the picket lines at studio backlots and production offices in Los Angeles and New York. The writers strike is set to pass the 100 day mark next week and in doing so will surpass the length of the last WGA strike that began in November 2007 and ended in February 2008.

As for SAG-AFTRA, the actors guild said in a statement on Wednesday that it has not heard from the AMPTP since its strike began and that its leaders are “ready willing and able to return to the table at any time.”

Given that AMPTP traditionally negotiates with only one entertainment industry union at a time, it’s unlikely that talks with SAG-AFTRA will resume while this new round of negotiations with the WGA take place.

For all of TheWrap’s WGA strike coverage, click here.