Nearly 500 WGA members gathered today at the Writers Guild Theater in Los Angeles to hear their leaders discuss the guild’s upcoming negotiations for a new film and TV contract. The press wasn’t allowed inside, but out on the street, cheers and applause could be heard emanating from the meeting. This was the first of four member meetings that will be held this month, with two more scheduled in L.A. and one in New York.
Solidarity was the order of the day. Although those in attendance were told not to talk to reporters, several ventured to say that the membership is united ahead of the contract talks, which have not yet been scheduled with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The WGA’s current contract expires May 1.
“The leadership presented their agenda, and everybody applauded,” said a writer after leaving the meeting. “They’re getting the troops warmed up.”
“We’re supporting the guild and its position,” said another.
“I’m very proud of my union,” another writer said after the meeting. “We’re united!”
“It was a great meeting,” said another, giving the thumbs-up sign.
“Solidarity!” said another.
“It was a pep rally,” said another.
In advance of today’s meeting, the guild’s Negotiating Committee told members via email that “We will present our proposed bargaining agenda and you will have the opportunity to share your thoughts, ask questions and hear from your fellow members about what’s at stake.”
The possibility of a writers’ strike is a concern of many in the industry, but WGA leaders have been urging their members not to believe the rumor mill.
“Now, you’ve probably been hearing a lot of rumors and provocative claims about our upcoming negotiations in the press,” Adam Conover, a WGA West board member and member of the 2023 Negotiating Committee, said in the video posted recently on the guild’s website. “So, I want to remind you that anyone who claims they know what the guild is going to do this cycle, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s because our guild is a democratic organization. We are the guild, all of us. And it’s we, the membership, who decide how to proceed.”
Even so, he said: “Now, be prepared. The AMPTP’s initial proposals always consist almost entirely of rollbacks and cuts to our compensation and other important protections and benefits.”
On his recent Scriptnotes podcast, John August, who also serves on the guild’s Negotiating Committee, was asked about the rumors and concerns that a strike is a foregone conclusion.
“That’s really kind of annoying, honestly,” he said. “The guild hasn’t laid out any of its proposals; we don’t know anything about what the companies are going to propose – so lots of things can happen, and it’s still pretty damn early. That said, the studios and networks are definitely trying to prepare for it if it does happen. You see them opening writers’ rooms early – they’re trying to get scripts in by May 1.” He added that “that’s really normal” at this stage of the pre-bargaining process.
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