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What Hollywood’s Writers Actually Want
As the WGA consults its angry members on big demands ahead of negotiations, here are the likely theaters of war—and what could drive a walkout.
The Writers Guild will probably negotiate first in this labor cycle, ahead of a May 1 contract expiration. The writers are frustrated and united, as they showed in their successful 2018-2020 battle against the talent agencies and at a lively member meeting Saturday that attracted about 500 writers.
Will they strike? Predictions are fraught, but the negotiations will certainly be hard fought. In 2020, the pandemic undercut a walkout threat and, said WGA negotiating committee member Ashley Gable in her 2022 board candidate statement, “our most critical issues were left unaddressed until [the 2023] negotiation.”
What are those issues? Wage increases, television mini rooms, residuals, and more. Writers are battling to sustain careers. Meanwhile, the studios and streamers are struggling with hobbled finances, shrunken market caps, the decline of linear TV and theater-going, and the high cost of scripted content and subscriber acquisition and retention. It’s going to be a tough negotiation.
One perennial issue that may not be a stumbling block this time is pension & health. Here’s why. The guild achieved outsize P&H increases the last two cycles and its pension plan (which depends on invested assets) reported itself in “good shape” last April. Although the S&P later tumbled about 25 percent, that’s ameliorated by this year’s rally plus a form of actuarial Botox called “asset smoothing” that minimizes the effect of a single year’s decline. Stock market wrinkles begone!
For a comprehensive explainer looking at all the issues, see my latest piece on Puck (subscription; free trial and free article available). And since past is sometimes prologue, take a deep dive into how the 2007-08 strike played out: check out my book Hollywood on Strike!
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