More than 96% of the voting members of the Writers Guild of America have authorized a strike against production companies.
The WGA released the results Monday, a day ahead of the resumption of contract negotiations on a master contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. A work stoppage could start as early as May 2, after the current three-year master contract has expired.
The AMPTP issued a statement in response to the strike authorization announcement: “The companies are committed to reaching a deal at the bargaining table that keeps the industry working. The 2007 Writers Strike hurt everyone. Writers lost more than $287 million in compensation that was never recovered, deals were cancelled, and many writers took out strike loans to make ends meet. We remain focused on our objective of reaching a deal with the WGA at the bargaining table when the guild returns on April 25th.”
A total of 6,310 ballots were cast and 67.5% of eligible WGA members voted. The support was similar to the 2007 strike authorization, which received backing from 90% of the 5,507 guild members voting. The strike authorization voting period began April 19 and ended at noon PT Monday.
The vote was not open to all WGA West and WGA East members, but only to those who have worked under AMPTP contract during the past six years and those with 15 or more years in pension plan.
The two sides have held about three weeks of negotiations, starting on March 13. The WGA announced on April 5 to media buyers that a strike could have a significant impact on primetime programming for the 2017-2018 television season.
The two sides jointly announced April 17 that they had suspended negotiations for a week while the WGA conducted the strike authorization vote. Leaders of the WGA then urged the guild’s 12,000 members to support the strike authorization, asserting that doing so will give negotiators the maximum leverage at the bargaining table. Should negotiators be making progress after talks resume, both sides could agree to extend the current contract.
WGA held three meetings last week for members to rally them. Several attendees at the meetings — closed to everyone except members and staff — said that there was consistent support for the negotiators.
The guild is asking for raises in minimums and script fees in an effort to offset changes in the nature of TV series production that have hit writers’ earnings. It’s pushing for parity for the payment structures for those working on shows for cable and SVOD outlets, where fees remain lower than those for traditional broadcast network TV, along with an increase in employer contributions to the guild’s health plan, which has been operating at a deficit.
A strike would be the first in a decade for the union. The WGA last struck for 100 days between Nov. 5, 2007, and Feb. 12, 2008.