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WGA rejects first offer made by the Hollywood studios

Protesters attend the Day of Solidarity union rally on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif.
Protesters attend the Day of Solidarity union rally on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023, at Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif. Copyright Jordan Strauss/Invision
Copyright Jordan Strauss/Invision
By Jonny Walfisz with AP
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After nearly four months of strikes from the writers union, the studios have made their first counteroffer.

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On 2 May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), comprising 11,000 television and film writers, went on strike over the increasingly dire state of streaming residual payments, work contracts and encroaching threat of AI on the industry.

When the 160,000 performer membership of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) also went on strike on 14 July over parallel contentions, the strike stalled the entirety of Hollywood to an extent unprecedented since the last joint strike in 1960.

Notably, there has been little movement on the studio side of the equation to end the strikes. Talks began between the WGA and the studios earlier this month but there have been no negotiation attempts from the studios with the actors guild yet.

The Hollywood studios provided a basic proposal to the WGA this Tuesday. In it, writers are proposed to receive a 13% pay increase while AI content will not be considered "literary material". The streaming services have also provided confidential reports on viewing figures for their shows and films. 

"We have come to the table with an offer that meets the priority concerns the writers have expressed. We are deeply committed to ending the strike and are hopeful that the WGA will work toward the same resolution," Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) President Carol Lombardini said in a statement.

However, the WGA's communications to its members indicate this deal isn't sufficient. "We explained all the ways in which their counter’s limitations and loopholes and omissions failed to sufficiently protect writers from the existential threats that caused us to strike in the first place," a WGA statement read. "But this was not a meeting to make a deal. This was a meeting to get us to cave." 

The WGA has reiterated their intention to strike for their rights. 

Until now, the prevailing intention of the Hollywood studios is seemingly to wait the strikes out. “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” one source from the AMPTP told Deadline. According to inside sources, the studios have planned to wait out the strike to at least the end of October.

One of the most highly publicised examples of the impact of the strikes on actors was Billy Porter’s recent admission that he’s had to sell his house. “Because we’re on strike. And I don’t know when we’re gonna go back. The life of an artist, until you make fuck-you money — which I haven’t made yet — is still check-to-check,” Porter told the Evening Standard.

Evan Agostini/Invision
Billy Porter arrives at the 73rd annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sunday, June 9, 2019, in New York.Evan Agostini/Invision

The strikes remain popular in public opinion though. Recent polling figures from Data For Progress found that 67% of people support the strikes. On the specific issues of the strikes, 87% agree that actors and writers should receive the “appropriate compensation when their work continues to earn money for corporations from reruns or streaming.” While 74% agreed that Hollywood shouldn’t be allowed to replace writers with AI tools.

These figures go some way to mitigate any studio suggestion that the public has little time for the striking unions getting in the way of their entertainment.

This is despite the majority of productions completely shutting down since the strike began. Many late night talk shows in the US have stalled as they rely on daily writers. Scripted shows like Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’, HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’, and Showtime’s ‘Yellowjackets’ have also all stopped production.

We covered the impact of the strikes on upcoming films extensively. Many of the films currently halted include the highly-anticipated sequels to recent blockbusters, such as Dune: Part Two, Fast X Part 2, and Spider-Man: Beyond The Spider-Verse.

Jordan Strauss/Invision
Kerry Washington speaks at the Day of Solidarity union rally on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023Jordan Strauss/Invision

The strikes have reportedly cost California’s economy $3 billion since the WGA put down their pens in early May.

At a large rally outside Disney Studios in Burbank, California, members of both unions made their displeasure at the situation known. “The audacity of these studios to say they can’t afford to pay their workers after they make billions in profits is utterly ridiculous,” Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Yvonne Wheeler told the crowd. She added a dig at Disney's CEO, who has become a target of strikers. “But despite their money, they can’t buy this kind of solidarity. Tell Bob Iger that.”

“We deserve to be able to be paid a fair wage. We deserve to have access to healthcare. We deserve to be free from machines pretending to be us," Washington said. “The dream of being working artist, the dream of making a living doing what we want to do, should not be impossible,” ‘Scandal’ actor Kerry Washington also said at the rally.

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