WGA Contract Talks

This is the single best distillation of issues between WGA and AMPTP.

Amy Berg is a TV writer-producer with extensive series credits including Leverage, Person of Interest, Eureka, Caper, Da Vinci's Demons, and the upcoming Starz! show Counterpart. She is also a member of the Writers Guild of America committee negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers.

Last night, she posted a detailed and insightful overview of the major issues in play with these negotiations. If you are an aspiring screenwriter or TV writer, or you are simply concerned about a possible work stoppage and what that might mean, I strongly encourage you to read Amy's post.

This is from an email FAQ I wrote for writers who asked to stay informed…

I received an email from the Guild about a strike authorization vote. What does that mean? Are we going on strike?

No. An authorization vote does not mean there's going to be a strike nor does it lend itself to one. There's a month to go before our current contract expires on May 1st and there is every reason to think we can still come to terms on a new deal.

All a "yes" vote does is empower our leadership at the negotiating table with the threat of a strike. Voting "yes" does not mean you want a strike. No one wants a strike. Strikes suck.

Okay, fine, I get all that. But what the hell happened? Didn't we just start negotiations? How did we get here so fast?

The first round of negotiations lasted for two weeks and ended on the night of Thursday, March 23 when AMPTP negotiators called our leadership and told them not to bother coming in on Friday. And that was after we went back to them with a 44% reduction in our asks with the hope of getting a deal done before the end of the two weeks. What did the AMPTP come back with? No substantive gains and a demand for ten million dollars in cuts to our health plan.

So, naturally, on Thursday our leadership told them that was unacceptable. The response from the AMPTP came when they cancelled catering for Friday's session.

Dude, that's not what I read on Deadline. They said the WGA broke off talks.

Deadline is a source for facts on trade guild negotiations just as InfoWars is a source for environmental protection data. Deadline and Variety are both owned by the same conglomerate, Penske Media Corporation, whose interests are much more in line with the studios than writers.

That's not to say you'll never see favorable reporting on the contract talks. They do occasionally go to great lengths to cut and paste infographics from the WGA website.

So about those talks… are we still talking?

Contract talks with AMPTP are scheduled to resume on Monday, April 10th.

WGA strike 2007–2008

Can we talk about the last WGA strike? If it wasn't worth it last time, why is it worth it this time?

Wasn't worth it? Have you been reading Deadline again? We talked about this.

Okay, fine, let's discuss what happened in 2007 and dispel the myth once and for all that we didn't gain anything.

Netflix. Amazon. Hulu.

Heard of them? Yeah, well, without the 2007 strike the WGA would have no jurisdiction over the films and TV shows that originate or appear on those platforms. None. Nada. Zero. It'd be considered internet content. Which means no minimums, no residuals, no pension or health contributions, no anything.

Did you know that 15% of all writer income come from subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) programming? And it's the second largest residual market for writers. None of that would be possible if we didn't walk in 2007.

Oh, and streaming. Remember bitching about how measly those reuse numbers were that we gained from the strike? Me, too. But we got them. And now we see just how much of a moneymaker it's become for studios and networks. Fortunately, because of the strike ten years ago, now we're asking for the appropriate increases rather than begging for scraps without any framework in place.

We need a logline. A quick pitch to explain what we're asking for and why it's important. Something people can latch onto like we had last time when we needed a foothold in digital knowing it was the future of media consumption.

This is still about the future, but it's unfortunately a little more complicated than a simple logline. Everything is interconnected this time around.

Our health plan has been operating at a deficit three of the last four years. And if that trend continues, it will become insolvent before we know it.

It'd be easy for us to use this as a rallying cry. But a key issue is why the plan is operating at a deficit. There's a number of reasons, including the rising costs of medical care and prescription drugs….

… but mostly it's because writers aren't making as much as they used to, which means employer contributions to our health and pension plans are way down.

Bottom line: The studios made $ 51B in profits last year. For them to open negotiations by proposing rollbacks is ridiculous, particularly in light of the fact that the writers who put words on paper to initiate the content creation process are making less money both in movies and TV.

Writers do not want to strike. It is, however, our only leverage.

For the rest of Amy's post, go here.

Twitter: @bergopolis.

WGA Contract Talks was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

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