A history of Hollywood writers' strikes

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 2, 2023 - WGA members walk the picket line on the first day of their strike in front of Paramount Studios in Hollywood on May 2, 2023. The union were unable to reach a last minute-accord with the major studios on a new three-year contract to replace one that expired Monday night. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Writers Guild of America members walk a picket line on Tuesday, the first day of their strike, in front of Paramount Studios in Hollywood. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

On Tuesday, members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike after the union was unable to reach an agreement on a new contract with the major studios.

The writers strike triggered picket lines in Los Angeles, New York and other cities and disrupted productions in Southern California and nationwide.

Labor unrest among Hollywood writers is nothing new. The current WGA strike is the eighth by writers since the 1950s and the first in 15 years.

Here's a look at previous writers' strikes:

1952: The Screen Writers Guild — a predecessor of the Writers Guild of America — and the Authors League of America strike against TV and film producers for 14 weeks. The two sides agree on a deal that defines pay scales and script ownership rights, and allows radio and theatrical writers to submit material for TV.

1960: Writers Guild members strike for 153 days, eventually winning the right to receive residuals for the showing of theatrical films on free television.

1973: Writers strike for 112 days, winning salary hikes as well as residual payments for movies shown on video cassettes and pay television.

1981: A 96-day strike results in the landmark contract that for the first time guarantees writers a share of producer revenues from the fast-growing pay-TV and home video markets. The strike idles many entertainment industry workers, delaying the start of the television season until November.

1985: Writers approve a new pact after a two-week strike, but the union’s leader calls it a “defeat” on the key issue of videocassette revenue-sharing.

People hold signs that read, "Writers Guild of America on strike."
A 2007 rally in Century City, early in a 100-day WGA strike. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

1988: A fight over residual payments for TV shows broadcast in foreign countries helps trigger a 22-week strike by writers, the longest walkout by the WGA in film industry history. The strike forces layoffs at many studios and brings financial hardship to thousands of industry workers. The new contract includes new formulas for calculating residuals and increases in minimum pay.

2007-08: A 100-day strike ends with a new contract that ensures writers a stake in the revenue generated when their movies, television shows and other creative works are distributed on the internet. The strike prompts networks and studios to order new unscripted programming and accelerate the return of others, including "Paradise Hotel," "Big Brother" and "Celebrity Apprentice," to plug programming holes during prime time. Employment and income for industry workers drops sharply during the period, with the strike costing the California economy an estimated $2 billion.

2023: The WGA announces a strike after a last-ditch effort to negotiate a new contract fails. The dispute, largely fueled by tensions over streaming pay, triggers pickets in Los Angeles, New York and other cities and halts productions nationwide. Network late-night shows, including ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” go dark — replaced by repeats.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.