Exclusive: While the Writers Guild of America continues to negotiate with studios until their current contract expires on May 1, strike preparations are underway — but Hollywood may not be as quick to find picket lines as you might think.
In fact, sources tell me the WGA won’t have its first pickets on the streets until “Tuesday afternoon.” In addition, guild leadership is planning a large meeting on May 3 at the 6,000-plus capacity paddock auditorium to explain to members why they are or are not contracting with AMPTP.
The explanation for the later-than-expected strike start time is actually more bureaucratic than dramatic. Like any major organization, the WGA has procedures in place during a strike, and the WGA West Board and WGA East Council must formally approve strike action. That approval and subsequent implementation could take hours, so the picketing period will begin on the afternoon of May 2.
If no agreement is reached with AMPTP for a new three-year contract, technically the writers are on strike on May 2 at 12:01 AM. With nearly 98% of the strike authorization ballot mandates and placards already printed earlier this month, WGA leadership is ready to hit the labor action button any time they choose.
A weekend of “deeply engaging” talks concluded today, as one insider put it. Aiming to resume tomorrow, the WGA negotiating team led by Ellen Stutzman and studio representatives led by Carole Lombardini expect to hold talks until Monday night before the contract deadline.
The WGA sent out a survey to members on Sunday asking where they would like to picket in the event of a strike.
“While the WGA negotiating team continues to negotiate with the AMPTP, with the goal of reaching a fair agreement by tomorrow, May 1.St With the contract deadline, we have to be prepared for a possible strike,” the guild said in a memo today with a member picket survey on when and where they could walk picket lines. The greatest leverage we collectively bring to a strike action is the return of our labor. Picketing is an important tactic to demonstrate that we are all in this together and that until the strike is resolved, it is not business as usual.
“A strike is a dynamic situation,” the guild said in an email to members with a link to the survey. “Therefore, picket locations and shifts may be subject to change. If we go on strike, WGA captains are trained to lead pickets, and WGA staff will be on site to support operations. In that context, a multiple-choice survey asks WGA members questions like: In the event of a strike, in the Los Angeles area, can you Can you picket?”
Plagued by low residuals, lack of streaming data, job insecurity, and more, writers are bringing in less money overall despite the boom in shows and content on more platforms in recent years. Although there are currently widely divergent approaches to how disputes should be resolved.
The last WGA strike lasted 100 days in 2007-2008, long before streamers like Netflix, Prime Video and AppleTV+ were now the dominant players.
If the strike starts from May 2, any big screen or small screen projects that fine-tune or grind writers’ rooms and scripts will come to an immediate halt. Additionally, other guilds and unions such as the DGA, IATSE, and the Teamsters may refuse to cross permitted picket lines. In this era of renewed union solidarity a reaction flew on and off the streets.
David Robb contributed to this report.