And… breathe. More or less everybody’s been holding their breath for the last month or so, as the expiration of the current contract between the Writers’ Guild Of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture And Television Producers at midnight on May 1st approached. Contract negotiations aren’t normally headline news, but with the WGA representing virtually every working screenwriter in the U.S, and the AMPTP representing the studios and networks who make their TV shows and movies, the risk, if the two sides couldn’t come to agreement, was that there could be a writers’ strike of the kind that crippled the industry back in 2007.
That strike, which lasted over three months, saw production on most TV shows shut down, and no work done on blockbusters whether they were in production or gearing up to it (leading to movies like “Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen,” a terrible film even by the standards of the “Transformers” franchise). And while fears of a repeat had meant recent negotiations went more smoothly, an initial offer by the studios deemed by most to be a severe lowball on key issues (most notably attempts to redress the new paradigm of shorter TV seasons, and aid to the WGA’s healthcare fund) meant that the strike was a very real possibility, with WGA members voting overwhelmingly in support of potential action.
It went right down to the wire — negotiations were briefly extended beyond the midnight deadline, but close to 1am PST, as Deadline report, a tentative agreement was reached, ensuring showbusiness work will go on untroubled as usual, to the relief of all involved. According to a statement from the WGA negotiating committee (co-headed by “Captain Phillips” writer Billy Ray, and including notable writers like “Erin Brockovich”’s Susannah Grant, Damon Lindelof, “The Walking Dead” showrunner Glen Mazzara, “Westworld” creator Jonathan Nolan, and “House Of Cards” honcho Beau Willimon), gains in minimum payments across the board were made, as well as Health Care contributions “that should ensure its solvency for years to come.”
Furthermore, “unprecedented gains” were made on shorter TV seasons, with writers now receiving additional payment after they work for 2.4 weeks on a single episode, while there were significant bump in cable and streaming residuals too, plus Parental Leave guarantees for the first time.
As the WGA statement acknowledges, they had to budge: “Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not.” But with the total increases coming close to $130 million, not all that far from the $150 milllion that was being asked for, this feels like a definite victory for the union, in large part because of the level of support for membership.
Our gratitude is owed not just to the negotiating committee, who seemed to play their cards well, but also to the solidarity shown among WGA members (and other colleagues in the entertainment industry), and it’s a reminder of the value of union membership. Hey, go join one! Read the full WGA statement below.
May 2, 2017
Your Negotiating Committee is pleased to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the AMPTP that we can recommend for ratification.
In it, we made gains in minimums across the board – as well as contribution increases to our Health Plan that should ensure its solvency for years to come. And we further expanded our protections in Options and Exclusivity.
We also made unprecedented gains on the issue of short seasons in television, winning a definition (which has never before existed in our MBA) of 2.4 weeks of work for each episodic fee. Any work beyond that span will now require additional payment for hundreds of writer-producers.
We won a 15% increase in Pay TV residuals, roughly $15 million in increases in High-Budget SVOD residuals, and, for the first time ever, residuals for comedy-variety writers in Pay TV.
And, also for the first time ever, job protection on Parental Leave.
Did we get everything we wanted? No. Everything we deserve? Certainly not. But because we had the near-unanimous backing of you and your fellow writers, we were able to achieve a deal that will net this Guild’s members $130 million more, over the life of the contract, than the pattern we were expected to accept.
That result, and that resolve, is a testament to you, your courage, and your faith in us as your representatives.
We will, of course, provide more details in the next few days. But until then, we just wanted to thank you – and congratulate you. Your voices were indeed heard.
Your 2017 Negotiating Committee
Chip Johannessen, Co-Chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Billy Ray, Co-Chair
Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Howard Michael Gould
Patric M. Verrone
Howard A. Rodman, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
David A. Goodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio