After several long consecutive days of negotiations, the Writers Guild of America and the labor group representing studios and streamers have reached a tentative deal on a new contract in a major development that could precipitate the end of a historic, 146-day writers’ strike.
The Writers Guild of America emailed strike captains the news on Sunday night, and shortly after, its negotiating committee informed members. “We have 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,” the message stated. “We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
The Music news has reached out to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for comment.
The parties came to terms on a provisional three-year agreement, which will need to be ratified by WGA members to take effect, on Sunday after studios responded to last-minute union asks that day. Specifics of the deal affecting around 11,500 WGA members weren’t available as of press time, though they will emerge in the next few days as the union seeks to sell its members on the pact.
In its message to members, the union’s negotiating committee asked for patience on details of the pact: “What remains now is for our staff to make sure everything we have agreed to is codified in final contract language. And though we are eager to share the details of what has been achieved with you, we cannot do that until the last ‘i’ is dotted.” The deal will first go to the union’s negotiating committee for a vote, then to the WGA West’s board and the WGA East’s council; if approved by those leaders, members will then be able to vote to ratify the contract.
During the final weekend of negotiations, lawyers huddled before the studios presented their alleged “best and final” offer on Saturday night. Later that same night, the AMPTP and the WGA issued a joint statement that they would be meeting again on Sunday. And indeed, despite the supposed finality of the studios’ previous proposal, the union returned to their bargaining counterparts on Sunday afternoon with some additional asks before the sides ultimately wrapped up the negotiations.
The mood among writers on Friday’s packed picket lines was one of cautious optimism, as union members anticipated that the end of the historic work stoppage might be soon. “The fact that they’ve been talking for three days straight is terrific,” showrunner Marc Guggenheim (Legends of Tomorrow) told The Music news at Disney. Studio-side sources familiar with the progress in the room also projected positivity over the past several days as management made moves on issues including A.I., TV staffing and residual compensation tied to streaming show performance. That buoyant mood dipped on Thursday night, when studio sources claimed the WGA came back late in the night with new asks on items that management believed to be already closed; but returned on Friday as the sides nailed down compromises.
The momentum in talks over the course of the past week was a welcome change in pace from the month-long standstill in negotiations that occurred after a meeting between WGA leaders and several CEOs plus AMPTP president Carol Lombardini in late August, which ended in mutual recrimination. The AMPTP released its Aug. 11 offer publicly, and the WGA slammed the meetup, saying its leaders were met with a “lecture about how good their single and only counteroffer was.” The pause in talks was lifted on Sept. 14, when the AMPTP announced that the WGA had reached out to resume negotiations and both sides were working on scheduling in the following week.
At day 146 of the ongoing WGA strike, the work stoppage was closing in on being the longest in the union’s history. The current record was set in 1988, when the WGA struck Hollywood companies for 154 days.
Though still tentative in nature, the agreement is a momentous development for an industry that has been hobbled by the double WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the first time both have occurred at once in over 60 years. The WGA strike had an immediate impact: Filming in Los Angeles declined 29 percent between April and June 2023 compared with the same period last year as the writers’ work stoppage began May 2, local office FilmLA reported on April 19. A wide array of major projects were halted in their tracks and/or postponed, including Netflix’s Stranger Things, Apple TV+’s Loot, Marvel’s Blade 2 and Thunderbolts and others. When SAG-AFTRA joined the stoppage, a number of additional projects including Venom 3, Gladiator 2 and Deadpool 3 followed.
A tentative agreement does not eradicate the potential for the strike to continue, as WGA members could still reject the deal in an upcoming ratification vote. The stakes and expectations are high, given how long the work stoppage has gone on so far. However, in the coming days the WGA leadership will undoubtedly work hard to persuade their members of the deal’s merits.
Negotiations for the agreement began on March 20 and broke off the night of May 1, resulting in a strike the next day. The two parties reunited again on August 11, reached a standstill in late August but resumed on Sept. 20, and concluded their negotiations on Sept. 23. The writers had been advocating for great compensation in the streaming era, through higher wage floors, regulation of mini-rooms and residuals tied to the performance of their shows. Meanwhile, studios and streamers — who have been feeling pressure to cut costs after Wall Street turned on unprofitable streaming operations in 2022 and amid an uncertain economic climate — were seeking to rein in their spending on labor. It remains to be seen how both sides managed to reach a compromise that could satisfy their constituents.
The writers were led in their negotiations by WGA West assistant executive director Ellen Stutzman, who stepped up to the plate after the western branch of the union’s executive director David Young went on medical leave prior to the start of talks. Carol Lombardini, the AMPTP’s chief negotiator since 2009, led the talks for producers.
Now, it’s up to the WGA’s members to determine whether the deal satisfies the workplace issues that their peers have been raising for months. All eyes are on the union’s ratification vote for the deal, whose date has not yet been announced.