WGA Spells Out Vast Differences That Led to Strike

The Writers Guild of America has detailed the vast differences between writers and the studios that led to the first strike in 15 years, which will begin Tuesday.

In a lengthy document, the guild spelled out its proposal for a TV staffing minimum, which would range from six to 12 writers per show, based on the number of episodes. That proposal is a non-starter for the studios, which declined to make a counter-offer.

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The guild also wants a guaranteed minimum number of weeks of employment per season, ranging from 10 weeks to 52 weeks. The studios likewise rejected that proposal and did not make a counter-offer.

In a statement on Tuesday night, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers called those the two “primary sticking points.” But the AMPTP said that it was willing to increase compensation and streaming residuals, and might have gone even farther than its last proposals, were it not for “the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon.”

The guild also wants a streaming residual that would factor in the success of shows, but the studios rejected that offer. By the guild’s calculations, its proposals would cost $429 million per year. The guild said the studios’ counter-offers amounted to only $86 million per year.

The guild also wants regulation of artificial intelligence. According to the guild’s document, it is proposing that AI “can’t write or rewrite literary material,” and can’t be “used as source material.” Variety previously reported that the guild’s proposal was that AI material would not be “considered” as either literary or source material. The AMPTP agreed only to study the issue, according to the guild.

The guild is also proposing increases in minimums of 6%, 5% and 5%. The AMPTP is offering only 4%, 3% and 2%, according to the WGA.

The WGA is also seeking to create a new minimum tier for writer-producers. Under the current system, the minimum for everyone above staff writer is $7,412 per week. The guild wants everyone at the level of co-producer and above (producer, supervising producer, co-executive producer, etc.) to be have a minimum pay tier that is 25% higher than the tier for story editors and executive story editors. The AMPTP was willing to create a new tier, but with a minimum only 2-7% above the story editor level.

The WGA is also looking for a 25% premium for writers who work in a “pre-greenlight” writers room. The AMPTP was willing to give a 5% premium. The writers’ proposal also called for half of the minimum TV writing staff to be employed all the way through production, which would give writers producing experience. The AMPTP rejected that proposal and did not counter, according to the guild.

The document did spell out a few limited areas of agreement, including increasing the “span cap” from $400,000 per year to $450,000. Writers who earn less than that amount would be guaranteed that their episodic rate would cover no more than 2.4 weeks of work. The AMPTP also tentatively agreed to allow staff writers — the entry level in TV writing — to get script fees, which they do not currently get.

“Here is what all writers know: the companies have broken this business,” the guild leadership told members Monday night. “They have taken so much from the very people, the writers, who have made them wealthy. But what they cannot take from us is each other, our solidarity, our mutual commitment to save ourselves and this profession that we love. We had hoped to do this through reasonable conversation. Now we will do it through struggle.  For the sake of our present and our future, we have been given no other choice.”

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