A writers’ strike could put the brakes on your favorite new television show after the Writers Guild of America (WGA) authorized its leadership to walk out if negotiations on a new contract are not successful.
WGA-East, which represents TV and film writers east of the Mississippi River, voted to authorize its board to grant a strike, one day after WGA-West’s members authorized its leadership to do the same Monday.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is comprised of two separate unions, the WGA-East, which represents 3,700 TV and film writers, and WGA-West, which represents over 20,000 TV and film writers, based predominantly in the Los Angeles area.
A second vote must pass for the writers to strike, as the votes this week simply authorizes WGA leadership to initiate a strike vote through online voting in April. A majority of the guild is expected to vote in favor, according to Forbes, meaning that a walk out is likely should upcoming negotiations falter ahead of a May 1 deadline.
Writers are asking for wage increases and additional funding for healthcare and pensions. The guild is concerned that as studios derive revenue from alternative platforms, television executives are producing more programming, but fewer episodes according to CNN.
TV writers are hired for a certain number of episodes in many cases, with pay scale set by the WGA. As viewing patterns and the industry changes with technology, studios are producing more content, but fewer episodes per show. Writers are asking for a higher wage minimum, in order to make up for fewer episodes.
Negotiations between the writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) began March 13, but recently broke off, according to Deadline, after writers asserted that AMPTP officials responded no to “virtually every proposal.”
After negotiations began with relative calm, the guild’s negotiating committee informed its members Friday that they have unanimously recommended that the “WGAW Board of Directors and WGAE Council conduct a strike authorization vote by the membership,” which both organizations have now done.
The AMPTP issued its own statement, telling Deadline that, “the WGA broke off negotiations at an early stage in the process in order to secure a strike vote rather than directing its efforts at reaching an agreement at the bargaining table.”
Writers went on strike ten years ago, in November, 2007, which disrupted television production, and resulted in revenue loss for the television networks. The central issue underpinning the strike at the time was digital revenue and the writers were able to win over some concessions from the networks.
TV writers earned an average of $194,478 in 2015 and film writers earned an average of $181,267, according to a WGA financial report released last summer. Both sides plan to restart negotiations in the coming days.
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