LOS ANGELES (CNS) - As anticipated, members of the Writers Guild of America voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if contract talks with Hollywood studios break down, the union announced Monday, stoking fears of a potentially costly shutdown in entertainment production.
According to the Writers Guild of America, 97.8% of members who cast ballots supported the strike-authorization vote. A total of 9,218 union members cast ballots, representing nearly 79% of the WGA's membership.
"Our membership has spoken," according to a statement from the union posted on its website. "Writers have expressed our collective strength, solidarity and the demand for meaningful change in overwhelming numbers. Armed with this undeniable demonstration of unity and resolve, we will continue to work at the negotiating table to achieve a fair contract for all writers."
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, issued a statement before the voting results were even announced, saying the approval was "inevitable."
"A strike authorization vote has always been part of the WGA's plan, announced before the parties even exchanged proposals," according to the AMPTP. "Its inevitable ratification should come as no surprise to anyone. Our goal is, and continues to be, to reach a fair and reasonable agreement. An agreement is only possible if the guild is committed to turning its focus to serious bargaining by engaging in full discussions of the issues with the companies and searching for reasonable compromises."
WGA members began voting last Tuesday, with balloting wrapping up at midday Monday. The approval of the strike-authorization measure does not automatically mean a walkout will occur. It merely authorizes the union to call for a strike once the current labor contract with the studios expires May 1.
Strike-authorization votes are a common tactic employed by unions during labor talks to pressure employers.
The WGA is pushing for increases in pay and residuals -- particularly over streaming content.
The WGA last went on strike in 2007-08, remaining off the job for 100 days and grinding Hollywood production to a halt. That strike was precipitated over compensation for what was then termed "new media," with Internet streaming beginning to reshape the entertainment landscape.
Various estimates from different organizations estimated that the 100- day strike cost the local economy between $2 billion and $3 billion.