Writers Strike Against Studios, Networks, Streaming Services Begins

Writers Continue Picketing Ahead Of Planned Talks

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Writers Guild of America will picket starting Tuesday afternoon after both its West Coast and East Coast leadership voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Picketing will begin at 1 p.m. outside Amazon's studios in Culver City, CBS' Studio City lot, Television City, The Walt Disney Co.'s corporate headquarters in Burbank, the Fox Studio Lot, Netflix's Hollywood headquarters, Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Sony Studios in Culver City, Universal Studios and Warner Bros. in Burbank.

The strike will disrupt work on hundreds of movies, scripted television series, late-night talk shows and streaming productions.

Among the issues on the bargaining table -- the WGA is pushing for increases in pay and residuals, particularly over streaming content. The guild is specifically calling for higher residual pay for streaming programs that have higher viewership, rather than the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show's success.

The union is also calling for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show.

Studios have pushed back on some union claims, noting that the entire industry is facing budget constraints and pointing to the thousands of layoffs currently underway at the Walt Disney Co. as a prime example. The studios also say writers' residuals have increased in recent years, powered largely by amounts earned through "new media."

The WGA last week issued what it calls "strike rules" in case a walkout is called. The instructions for union members essentially bar them from doing any writing for studios being struck, or conducting any negotiations on future writing projects. The rules also direct union members to honor all WGA picket lines, perform assigned "strike-support" duties and inform the union of any "strikebreaking activity."

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, issued a statement at 7:54 p.m. Monday reporting that negotiations concluded Monday without an agreement.

"The AMPTP presented a comprehensive package proposal to the guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals," the statement said.

"The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon. The primary sticking points are mandatory staffing and duration of employment, guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.

"The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry, and to avoid hardship to the thousands of employees who depend upon the industry for their livelihoods. The AMPTP is willing to engage in discussions with the WGA in an effort to break this logjam."

The Writers Guild announced at 8:38 p.m. Monday that the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America West and Council of the Writers Guild of America East had voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

"Though our Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios' responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing, the WGA West said in a statement.

WGA members voted overwhelmingly in April to authorize a strike if labor negotiations broke down. According to the WGA, 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 union announcement of the voting results. "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 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.

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