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Hollywood writers strike: WGA reaches ‘tentative’ deal to end 146-day strike

 

After five days of negotiations with studios and streaming services, union says it has an ‘exceptional’ deal for members to vote on

Hollywood writers are poised to end their nearly five-month strike after reaching a tentative agreement with studios, the writers’ union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said Sunday night, though the full details of agreement still have to be formally approved.



The deal came after five marathon days of renewed talks by negotiators for the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and an alliance of studios, streaming services and production companies, and must be approved by the guild’s board and members before the strike officially ends.

The terms of the deal were not immediately announced, but the WGA called the deal “exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership,” in an email to members.

Four top industry executives – Iger, Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos and NBCUniversal Studio Group Chair Donna Langley – joined negotiations this week, helping to break the months-long impasse.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom touted his support for striking workers in a statement Sunday night, saying writers “went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods – expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling. I am grateful that the two sides have come together.”

The agreement comes just five days before the strike would’ve broken the record of the union’s 1988 strike to become the longest in the guild’s history, and the longest Hollywood strike in decades. Union leaders are expected to vote on the full terms of the new three-year contract on Tuesday, according to the union’s email to members, which was posted on social media.

Late-night television shows are expected to resume production shortly, and could even return to the air within days, but Hollywood actors, who joined the industry’s historic “double strike” in July, remain on strike, meaning that many new film and television projects are expected to stay on hold, and crew members affected by the work stoppage will remain unemployed.

“We remain on strike in our TV/Theatrical contract and continue to urge the studio and streamer CEOs and the AMPTP to return to the table and make the fair deal that our members deserve and demand,” the Screen Actors Guild said in a statement congratulating the writers’ union on its tentative agreement.

The ongoing work stoppages have taken a toll on camera operators, carpenters, production assistants and other crew members, as well as the caterers, florists, costume suppliers and other small businesses that support film and television production. But unions for other workers affected by the double strike, including the Teamsters and the union for stagehands and technical workers, stood in solidarity with the writers and actors’ union throughout the strike.

Los Angeles mayor Karen Bass hailed the tentative agreement as a “fair deal” and said she hoped “the same will happen soon for SAG-AFTRA,” citing the need to get the city’s entertainment industry, a central part of LA’s economy, back on its feet.

The 146-day writers’ strike was driven by Hollywood workers’ frustrations with their share of the profits in an online-streaming era, and spotlighted artists’ concerns about the threats artificial intelligence might pose to their industry. While Bob Iger, the Disney CEO, called the writers’ and actors’ demands “just not realistic” in July, the strike ultimately highlighted the solidarity among unions within Hollywood - and the broad public support for workers’ demands, as the Tinseltown labor disputes kicked off a “hot labor summer” of strikes across multiple industries. Iger subsequently struck a conciliatory note, citing his “deep respect” for creative professionals.

“This fight was won by the writers’ guild months ago, and the billionaires and the CEOs have just been denying the reality of the situation,” Alex O’Keefe, a WGA member who has been outspoken about the industry’s toll on early career writers, told the Guardian Sunday night. “We had to give the entire industry a reality check.”

“This was never a fight about money. It was a fight about power. It was a fight about disrespect,” O’Keefe added, saying he hoped the deal marked “a new era in Hollywood.”

Striking actors and writers have marched together outside studios across Los Angeles, from Amazon to Warner Bros to Disney. To improve morale, some of the picketers have come dressed in themed costumes of the day, like on “Bridgerton Day” outside Netflix’s studios.

Both actors and writers described a shared frustration with an industry that increasingly made it difficult for the average worker to earn a middle-class living, and that seemed poised to turn all but the most successful stars into gig workers. And both said they feared that studios would try to replace writers, background actors, designers and other creatives with a smaller number of workers supplemented by artificial intelligence technologies.

Variety reported that the language around “the use of generative AI in content production” was one of the final aspects of the new contract the writers and the studios worked on before they reached their tentative deal.

In July, Deadline, an industry publication, sparked outrage when it quoted an anonymous studio executive as saying that studios did not plan to negotiate with writers until the fall, saying “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”

The economic pain of the writers’ 146-day strike was met with shows of solidarity from some of the industry’s most powerful celebrities.

A-list Hollywood actors made their support for the strikes clear even before the actors’ union had authorized a strike. Some wealthy directors and producers announced six-figure donations to strike funds to support former cast and crew members, while other stars auctioned off Zoom meetings and one-on-one experiences to raise money for a crew healthcare fund.

The few celebrities who attempted to flout strike rules – including Drew Barrymore, who announced she would resume her popular talkshow while her writers were still on strike – faced broad public condemnation, and quickly reversed course.

In May, Warner Bros CEO David Zaslav was booed and jeered at by students at Boston University as he delivered a commencement address in the early weeks of the writers strike. “Pay your writers!” the students reportedly chanted at him.

In an email shared on social media on Sunday, the writers guild told its 11,500 members that the strike was not officially over and no one was to return to work. While WGA picketing has been suspended, the guild said, it encouraged writers to continue to march with SAG-AFTRA on its picket lines, which will resume Tuesday.

“It’s going to be wild on the picket line,” O’Keefe, the WGA member, said. This coming week, he said he planned to join the actors’ picket line, and also to show up to picket with the United Auto Workers, who are also on strike. Hollywood writers are “not going anywhere,” O’Keefe said. “We are part of the labour movement.”

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