After representatives for the Writers Guild of America convened on Friday with major studios and streamers in the first formal return to the negotiating table since the strike was called on May 2, the WGA negotiating committee says the union will “evaluate their offer and, after deliberation, go back to them with the WGA’s response next week.”
The negotiations were led by AMTPTP president Carol Lombardini and WGA West assistant executive director and chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman. The meeting was announced on Thursday after Lombardini reached out to the guild to resume negotiations, with an expectation that studios would provide responses to the WGA’s latest offer that was presented Aug. 4.
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“Sometimes more progress can be made in negotiations when they are conducted without a blow-by-blow description of the moves on each side and a subsequent public dissection of the meaning of the moves,” wrote the negotiating committee. “That will be our approach, at least for the time being, until there is something of significance to report, or unless management uses the media or industry surrogates to try to influence the narrative.”
It added, “The Guild always has the right to communicate with our members and will do so when we think there is news you need to know.”
No further information was provided. The AMPTP declined to comment.
The hangup between the studios and guild involves the deal the Directors Guild of America struck earlier this summer. According to the WGA, after an exploratory meeting about resuming talks, the AMPTP doesn’t want to depart too far from that agreement. Stutzman said the studios are open to acceding to increases on writer-specific TV minimums and signaling that they’re willing to make AI concessions but not budging on core concerns relating to minimum size of writers rooms or success-based residuals. The union called these “fundamental issues” that need to be addressed in the new contract to ensure that “no segment of the membership would be left behind.” WGA negotiating committee co-chair Chris Keyser, in an interview this week with The Hollywood Reporter, said that the “DGA deal was never going to be a meaningful pattern for us” since success-based residuals wasn’t a sticking point for directors.
A studio source with knowledge of what was expected to transpire at Friday’s meeting said the AMPTP was “supposedly prepared to talk about the three big issues” of AI, streaming residuals and mini-rooms. The WGA, in its briefing to members Aug. 4, said the studios were only prepared to offer the DGA deal for pattern issues and a willingness to engage on AI but not mini-rooms or streaming residuals. “Part of the frustration last time was that they walked in without being willing to address those,” the source said.
There’s currently no clear path to the parties striking a deal that would end the work stoppage from scribes, which has now officially eclipsed the duration 2007 walkout. In the wake of discussions last week to discuss the possibility of resuming negotiations — in which a preview of the issues each side intended to bring back to the table were presented — the WGA negotiating committee expressed that the AMPTP may be looking to drag out the strike. “Your committee remains willing to engage with the companies and resume negotiations in good faith to make a fair deal for all writers, even with this early confirmation that the AMPTP playbook continues,” wrote the WGA negotiators. “But rest assured, this committee does not intend to leave anyone behind, or make merely an incremental deal to conclude this strike.”
The union has told its member to temper expectations that a deal is imminent. Keyser, in the interview with THR, said of the Aug. 4 meeting that it “didn’t go perfectly well” as the AMPTP insists on only discussing certain issues and going back to its member companies to gauge proposals. He added that negotiations remain “cordial,” though “coldly professional.” In the 2007 writers strike, both sides similarly restarted negotiations only for them to fall again fall apart. At that point in the impasse, the WGA had announced plans to individually negotiate with studios.
In a sign that the work stoppage has battered industry relationship, Stutzman at the Aug. 4 meeting also pushed for arbitration of legal conflicts that began during the strike and a reinstatement of striking writers in previous roles.
More than 100 days into the work stoppage, essentially all unionized, scripted production in the U.S. has been shutdown. Combined with SAG-AFTRA members joining the picket line last month, which suspended production on major films and television series, the strike has likely cost the California economy billions of dollars as hotels, restaurants and construction companies, among others, that depend on Hollywood are caught in the fallout. The last writers strike dealt a $2 billion (or $2.8 billion in 2023 dollars) blow to the state, according to a study from think tank the Milken Institute.
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