WGA members voted in favor of a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producer that ended a 148-day strike.
The union reached an almost unanimous decision of the three-year Minimum Basic Agreement. Members of both the WGA West and WGA East cast their votes, with 99% of those who voted approving the now sealed deal that will run from Sept. 25, 2023 to May 31, 2026.
“Through solidarity and determination, we have ratified a contract with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of our combined membership,” said WGAW President Meredith Stiehm in a statement. “Together we were able to accomplish what many said was impossible only six months ago. We would not have been able to achieve this industry-changing contract without WGA Chief Negotiator Ellen Stutzman, Negotiating Committee co-chairs Chris Keyser and David A. Goodman, the entire WGA Negotiating Committee, strike captains, lot coordinators, and the staff that supported every part of the negotiation and strike.”
“Now it’s time for the AMPTP to put the rest of the town back to work by negotiating a fair contract with our SAG-AFTRA siblings, who have supported writers throughout our negotiations,” said WGAE President Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. “Until the studios make a deal that addresses the needs of performers, WGA members will be on the picket lines, walking side-by-side with SAG-AFTRA in solidarity.”
The WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached a tentative agreement in September after more than five months of bitter and stalled negotiations.
“We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language,” the WGA Negotiating Committee wrote to its members in a letter shared with Rolling Stone on Sunday. “What we have won in this contract — most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd — is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days. It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal.”
In the letter, the WGA called the deal “exceptional” and emphasized that it included “gains and protections” for its membership. It also called for patience as the deal was finalized.
The deal needed to pass a number of votes before ratification: First going to the union’s negotiating committee for a vote, and then approval by the WGA West’s board and the WGA East’s council. Once approved via those leadership votes, members were able to vote to ratify the contract.
On March 20, the WGA entered into contract discussions with the AMPTP, which represents Hollywood studios and streamers, and failed to agree on negotiations by the May 1 deadline. On May 2, for the first time since 2007 (before the birth of streaming giants Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max), WGA members went on strike, forcing many major productions to cease operations.
Included in the WGA demands were an increase in viewership-based residuals, an increase in the minimum compensation in all areas of media for writers, an increase in contributions to pension and health care plans, and minimum staffing levels.
One of the major points on contention surrounded the regulation of the use of artificial intelligence (AI). The WGA had initially requested that “AI can’t write or rewrite literary material,” “can’t be used as source material,” and that “MBA-covered material can’t be used to train AI,” the fear being that AI could generate drafts of screenplays and then hire writers at day rates to fine tune those scripts. The AMPTP rejected the proposal at the time, instead offering merely to hold “annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology.”
Last month, AMPTP released details of a contract offer presented to the WGA on Aug. 11. In the released proposal, the AMPTP outlined a 13 percent wage increase over a three-year contract, a 15 percent increase in minimum weekly rates, and rights from AI-produced material, but left open a potential loophole that could lead to copyrightable scripts produced by AI with human help.
Writers fired back at the flawed counteroffer, and highlighted a number of areas where in their eyes, AMPTP’s proposal fell short.
The Wire creator David Simon criticized the counterproposal on X, (formerly known as Twitter), writing, “Read it in detail. On every one of five essential issues for which the AMPTP claims a concession in large print, there is, in smaller print, an equivocation that wipes the concession away. It’s why this ‘final offer’ isn’t remotely acceptable to our union.”
In a letter earlier this month, the WGA Negotiating Committee suggested that studios might have to break from the AMPTP and its “paralysis,” stating that they’ve had productive conversations with separate studio executives who seem willing to negotiate.
“The companies know the truth: they must negotiate if they want to end the strike. They may not like it —they may try to obscure it — but they know it,” the statement read. “While they wrestle with that fact and with each other, they will continue attempting to get writers to settle for less than what we need and deserve, and encourage us to negotiate with ourselves. But we are not going to do that.”
This is a developing story…