The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers announced a tentative deal Sunday night to end the writers’ strike, which started May 2. The strike continues while the ratification process goes forward, with union leaders expected to vote on Tuesday both on the deal itself and on ending the strike. Once union leaders sign off on the deal, it would go to the WGA’s 11,000 members to vote on ratification.
The details of the tentative agreement are not public and are still being finalized, but negotiators described it as “exceptional” in an announcement to members, saying it contains “meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
Variety has reported some aspects of the deal:
They achieved a new-model streaming residual formula that should help fellow striking union SAG-AFTRA in its quest to achieve a revenue-based residual. The WGA’s formula amounts to a bonus system based on pre-determined, high-bar performance benchmarks for individual titles. But it’s nonetheless more than industry dealmakers predicted the guild would secure when the first round of WGA-AMPTP talks began in earnest last spring. The sides are also believed to have come to a compromise on the minimum staffing issue by setting up a formula for a minimum number of writer hires that adjusts on a sliding scale depending on the number of episodes produced per season.
Making any headway on minimum staffing would be a major win for the union—the AMPTP’s refusal to budge on that issue was one of the key sticking points that forced the writers to go on strike.
Actors remain on strike, with no active negotiations between the AMPTP and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. A strong deal for the WGA puts pressure on the AMPTP and suggests the studios were already feeling that pressure.
In July, when the WGA had been on strike for more than two months, a studio executive reportedly told Deadline, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” Some have. But the tentative deal comes as California is on the brink—if Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn’t veto it—of passing a law that would give workers unemployment benefits after two weeks on strike. That law wouldn’t go into effect until January, but if it does, it will strengthen the hand of workers in long strikes like these by blunting the “starve them out” approach by which companies simply rely on their greater financial reserves to push through to a win. January would be a long time for striking workers to wait for $450 a week in unemployment, but it could have provided a rallying cry for mutual aid efforts and let groups providing aid to striking workers distribute whatever they could before January rather than budgeting for the longer term.
If WGA leadership endorses the deal and ends the strike, the resumption of talk shows would be the first visible result, with the late-night shows potentially coming back as soon as October 2. Hosts Jimmy Fallon, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert have been striking as WGA members, but they would be able to come back despite the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. That strike means that the shows would be scrambling for guests as SAG-AFTRA members are not promoting movies they’ve already filmed that are now being released. Placing guests on those shows could be a major boost, though, for independent films that are being released under an interim agreement with the union that does allow stars to promote them.