What to know about the WGA’s tentative deal to end the longest labor stoppage in the industry’s history.
Hollywood’s longest and most costly labor strikes may finally be coming to an end.
Late in the day on Sunday, September 24 – after 146 days of labor stoppage, the longest strike in Hollywood history by a long shot – the WGA, which represents Hollywood’s writers, and the AMPTP, an association of Hollywood’s largest studios and production companies, announced that an agreement had been reached.
According to an announcement sent to members by the WGA leadership on Sunday night, the union “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.”
What does the agreement say?
We don’t know yet, but we likely will in the coming days. According to the WGA’s announcement, “We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional—with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
What we know is that the WGA’s pattern of demands included cost-of-living to writers’ minimum salaries, residuals, working conditions, hiring practices, and the potential use of artificial intelligence to get around the need to hire and pay writers. There’s more to say, but in general the demands are designed to protect writers from the severe hit to pay and job stability that’s come along with the pivot to streaming and the potential further changes from the advent of generative AI. SAG-AFTRA, the union that represents the actors, put forward a similar set of demands.
Does this mean the writers aren’t on strike?
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but this isn’t all buttoned up yet.
According to the WGA, once a memorandum of understanding is established between the AMPTP and the WGA, the negotiating committee will vote on whether to recommend the agreement to the union’s leadership. If the leadership authorizes a vote to ratify the contract, then membership will vote.
At that time, the leadership will also vote on whether to end the strike. “This would allow writers to return to work during the ratification vote, but would not affect the membership’s right to make a final determination on contract approval,” the WGA’s message explained.
The union will suspend picketing immediately, but writers will not return to work until the leadership ends the strike. (The union encouraged WGA members to join the SAG-AFTRA picket lines in the meantime.) The leadership is scheduled to vote on Tuesday, September 26.
This timeline is similar to the events ending the last strike, which happened 15 years ago. The WGA and AMPTP held their final meeting on February 9, 2008 and reached a tentative deal. The WGA filed a strike termination two days later, on February 11, and the next day, the writers voted to end the strike. The WGA then ratified the new contract two weeks later, on February 26. Members could reject the deal, but it’s very unlikely.
On the AMPTP side, there’s no vote to be had — the offer is the offer.
Are the actors in SAG-AFTRA still on strike?
Yes. The SAG-AFTRA strike is separate from the WGA strike, and until an agreement is reached between the AMPTP and SAG-AFTRA, the actors remain on strike. Most production, for obvious reasons, can’t resume until that strike ends.
However, the WGA’s agreement with the AMPTP historically sets the template for Hollywood’s other trade unions. The DGA (which represents directors) already ratified their agreement in June, averting their own strike. But whatever’s in the WGA’s agreement will likely help set the tone for a SAG-AFTRA’s agreement, and we can expect to see them back at the bargaining table soon.
Does this mean everything’s going to go back to normal?
No. TV and film production doesn’t happen overnight, and while it will likely ramp up rapidly once the actors come back to work, the lengthy strike has caused inevitable delays and hiccups.
The fall TV schedule, for instance, is largely full of reality and game shows; we won’t see a return to “normal” for a while. However, talk shows such as Drew Barrymore’s can now return to the air without risking censure from the WGA. Similarly, late night talk shows (such as those helmed by Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers) are likely to return by early October.
It seems unlikely that movies like Dune: Part Two, which was pushed into 2024, will be pulled back onto the 2023 schedule once actors and writers are permitted by their unions to promote work again. But once SAG-AFTRA’s strike ends, risks of further delays will drop off.
But October had long been seen as kind of a last-ditch moment for an agreement to be reached without catastrophic meltdowns in the industry. That said, many workers inside and outside of Hollywood have incurred immense financial losses during the strike, and studios Warner Bros Discovery, which initially saw a bump to their bottom line, have projected earnings losses for 2023.
Once we see the agreement, we’ll know exactly how much of an effect the strikes had on the future of Hollywood. For now, though, the focus is likely to be on recovery, in an industry that’s already reeling from years of potentially bad financial decisions, covid delays, and existential struggles.