The Writers Guild of America urged members Friday to stay strong, and argued that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers will have to soften its hard-line stance in order to end the four-month strike.
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The WGA suggested that legacy studios that want a “fair deal” with writers will have to either assert their interests within the studio alliance, or break away from the “broken AMPTP model.”
The union also revealed that in private conversations with legacy studio executives, some have expressed openness to accommodating the guild’s positions on various issues. But, the guild argued that the AMPTP as a group is trapped in a system that “favors inflexibility over compromise,” forcing all members to take a hard line.
“They will continue attempting to get writers to settle for less than what we need and deserve, and encourage us to negotiate with ourselves. But we are not going to do that,” the guild’s negotiating committee told members. “Instead, the companies inside the AMPTP who want a fair deal with writers must take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach.”
The WGA went on strike on May 2. No talks have been held since an Aug. 22 meeting between several studio CEOs and the top WGA leadership at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. At that meeting, the studio chiefs urged the union to accept a counter-offer, which included increased residuals and minimums, as well as access to streaming viewership data.
The union has said that the AMPTP offer is “not nearly enough,” and has cited a host of loopholes.
The union has not previously given details of conversations with individual studio executives. In the email, the union said that one executive said that his company “needed a deal badly.”
“Those same executives — and others — have said they are willing to negotiate on proposals that the AMPTP has presented to the public as deal breakers,” the union said. “On every single issue we are asking for we have had at least one legacy studio executive tell us they could accommodate us.”
The union also warned members to keep their radar up for studio efforts to sow doubt and dissension among writers.
“We understand how painful this time is for everyone,” the union said. “We are all tired and hurting and scared. There is nothing wrong with saying so.”
The full text of the WGA update follows:
We know that people are anxious for information about the status of the negotiation—and how difficult it can be to stay strong during periods of silence — which is only exacerbated by the companies’ recent attempts to make an end run around the Negotiating Committee and confuse the narrative. What follows is an update on where we are and how we got here. We share things we have not shared up until now, including conversations with individual executives that illustrate how some of the companies can already see a path toward making a deal, while other members of the AMPTP are not there yet.
In the 130 days since the WGA strike began, the AMPTP has only offered one proposal to the WGA, on August 11th. Since then, the companies have not moved off that proposal even though the WGA in turn presented our own counterproposal to the AMPTP on August 15th. The current standstill is not a sign of the companies’ power, but of AMPTP paralysis.
The studios and streamers bargaining together through the AMPTP have disparate business models and interests, as well as different histories and relationships with unions. They are competitors in all respects, except when they band together to deal with Hollywood labor. Through the AMPTP, these legacy studios and streamers negotiate as a united front which allows hard liners to dictate the course of action for all the companies. The AMPTP purports to represent all of these disparate corporate interests, but in practice administers a system that favors inflexibility over compromise, and sacrifices the interests of individual companies in reaching a deal. That regression to the hardest line has produced the first simultaneous strikes since 1960.
In contrast, during individual conversations with legacy studio executives in the weeks since SAG-AFTRA went on strike, we have heard both the desire and willingness to negotiate an agreement that adequately addresses writers’ issues. One executive said they had reviewed our proposals, and though they did not commit to a specific deal, said our proposals would not affect their company’s bottom line, and they recognized they must give more than usual to settle this negotiation. Another said they needed a deal badly. Those same executives—and others—have said they are willing to negotiate on proposals that the AMPTP has presented to the public as deal breakers. On every single issue we are asking for we have had at least one legacy studio executive tell us they could accommodate us.
So, while the intransigence of the AMPTP structure is impeding progress, these behind-the-scenes conversations demonstrate there is a fair deal to be made that addresses our issues. Given the outsized economic impact of the strikes on the legacy companies, their individual studio interest in making a deal isn’t surprising. Warner Bros. confirmed this in a public financial filing just this week.
We have made it clear that we will negotiate with one or more of the major studios, outside the confines of the AMPTP, to establish the new WGA deal. There is no requirement that the companies negotiate through the AMPTP. So, if the economic destabilization of their own companies isn’t enough to cause a studio or two or three to either assert their own self-interest inside the AMPTP, or to break away from the broken AMPTP model, perhaps Wall Street will finally make them do it.
Until there is a breakthrough, the companies and AMPTP will try to sow doubt and internal guild dissension. Keep your radar up. When the companies send messages through surrogates or the press about the unreasonableness of your guild leadership, take those messages as part of a bad-faith effort to influence negotiations and not as the objective truth.
The companies know the truth: they must negotiate if they want to end the strike. They may not like it—they may try to obscure it—but they know it. While they wrestle with that fact and with each other, they will continue attempting to get writers to settle for less than what we need and deserve, and encourage us to negotiate with ourselves. But we are not going to do that.
Instead, the companies inside the AMPTP who want a fair deal with writers must take control of the AMPTP process itself, or decide to make a deal separately. At that point, a resolution to the strike will be in reach.
We understand how painful this time is for everyone. We are all tired and hurting and scared. There is nothing wrong with saying so. The optimism for a return to negotiation has been met with a harsh reminder of how fraught this process can be. We share the frustration with how long the companies are prolonging the strike, and remain committed to negotiating a fair resolution as fast as possible.
In the meantime, as always, you can find your negotiating committee and Board and Council members out on the picket lines. When there is anything of significance to report, we will write again.
WGA NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE