Hollywood Writers End Strike, Make Gains in New 3-Year Contract

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Hollywood Writers End Strike, Make Gains in New 3-Year Contract

A worker wheels equipment past the famous Hollywood sign as preparations continue for the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on March 8, 2023. (J. David Ake/AP Photo)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

9/27/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

Hollywood writers were allowed to return to work Sept. 27 after declaring an end to a nearly five-month strike against major studios.
Union leaders made significant gains in the new three-year contract, which they called “exceptional,” including pay increases and new industry rules for the use of artificial intelligence.
Governing boards for the western and eastern branches of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and their joint negotiating committee all voted to accept a deal reached with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), ending the 148-day strike.
The agreement will now be sent to union members for ratification during the first week in October.
The WGA’s leaders also voted to lift a restraining order, ending the strike as of 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. This allowed writers to return to work during the ratification process, according to the WGA.
“Now that we have finalized the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), we can share details of this exceptional deal, with gains and protections for members in every sector of the business,” the WGA said in a statement posted online.
Writers walked off jobs May 2 after negotiations broke down with major studios and streaming services.
Late-night talk shows were the first to halt production as the walkout crippled the entertainment industry. Two months later, Hollywood’s actors joined writers on picket lines in the first double strike in 60 years. Actors remain on strike and have yet to set a date to resume talks with studios.
A Writers Guild of America support sign rests near SAG-AFTRA members picketing outside Warner Bros. Studio as the actors strike continues in Burbank, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

A Writers Guild of America support sign rests near SAG-AFTRA members picketing outside Warner Bros. Studio as the actors strike continues in Burbank, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The WGA was asking for a slate of changes that could cost studios $439 million a year in higher wages, more residual pay from streaming services, work guarantees, certain contracts for streaming shows, and protection from the emerging technology of artificial intelligence (AI), a concern also shared with other entertainment industry unions.
Union demands included establishing requirements for studios to allow writers to be more involved as multiple streaming services—such as Discovery Plus, Disney Plus, Netflix, and Paramount Plus—have gained popularity and squeezed writers out of production, and eroded writers’ pay, according to the union.

What’s in the Deal

The agreement includes pay increases, increased health and pension contributions, and regulations for the use of AI, among other gains.
The union asked for increases of between 5 percent and 6 percent, depending on the position of the writer. The studios wanted between 2 percent and 4 percent. The deal includes minimum pay raises of 3.5 percent to 5 percent.
Writers also gained new residual payments depending on the popularity of streaming shows. Many writers had complained that such pay was too low. In addition, they will now earn bonuses for helping create the most popular streaming shows.
On the use of artificial intelligence, the deal specifies AI can’t write or rewrite literary material, and AI-generated material will not be considered source material under the contract, meaning that it can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit or rights.
A writer can choose to use AI when writing, if production companies consent to its use and follow company policies. However, companies can’t require the writer to use AI software—such as ChatGPT—when performing writing services, according to the WGA.
The companies must also disclose to the writer if any materials given to them have been generated by AI or include AI-generated material.
The WGA also reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited.
Actors, writers, and other union members join SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikers on a picket line in front of the offices of HBO and Amazon, during the National Union Solidarity Day in New York City on Aug. 22, 2023. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Actors, writers, and other union members join SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikers on a picket line in front of the offices of HBO and Amazon, during the National Union Solidarity Day in New York City on Aug. 22, 2023. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

Beyond increased wages, minimum pay for feature-length screenwriters will increase 18 percent to $100,000 for a story and teleplay, plus a 26-percent increase in residuals, which is pay given to writers when movies and television shows are rerun, syndicated, released on DVD, or are licensed for streaming services.
Increased foreign streaming residuals will also increase by 76 percent. For instance, Netflix’s 3-year foreign residual will increase from $18,684 for a one-hour episode, to $32,830, according to the union.
Also in the deal was an agreement about a new minimum number of writers who must be hired for some series productions, which will go into effect for seasons that write the first episode after Dec. 1, 2023.  Shows that are intended to run 13 episodes will have at least six writers on staff, depending on the number of episodes in the series.
Writers are also guaranteed that staff on developing shows will be employed for at least 10 weeks, and those on shows that go to air will be employed for three weeks per episode.
AMPTP representatives did not return a request for comment by press time.
Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

Author

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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