Sep 26, 2023

WGA Nabs A Deal With AMPTP After 5 Months of Refusing to Break The Line. Now, Pens Stay Down For Sister-Union SAGAFTRA

The WGA has reached a tentative deal with the AMPTP as it has played out its super-villain type role these past 5 months. However, the AMPTP can’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. WGA is continuing to stand in solidarity with SAGAFTRA as their first joint strike since 1960 sees the scribes saying “ah, ah, ah, pens down until SAGAFTRA gets a deal too.”

Just days before the deal was reached Disney CEO Bob Iger was seen having dinner with Paul McCartney, in Bevery Hills. It wouldn’t take long before images of this dinner hit the Whatsapp showrunner group. As meme after meme fell into the private showrunner conversation one stood out as a whiskey bottle titled ‘writer’s tears.’ Showrunners may not have sent Iger and McCartney whiskey but they did send their table a round of shots with the note  “Expectantly, from the showrunners of Hollywood.”

Specific details of the new deal attained by the WGA have not as of yet come to light. What guild leadership has described has waxed poetic with terms like “exceptional,” “meaningful gains and protections for writers,” shinning through their statements ahead of the new contract, which still needs to be ratified. This September 24th deal comes as a welcome change to their last meeting. Just weeks earlier, on Aug. 22, guild representatives met with those same executives only to end up blasting them in a late night message to members. Instead of finally getting a chance to negotiate with the executives, the guild negotiating committee said, “We were met with a lecture about how good their single and only counteroffer was.”  What followed that chilling email blast was a standoff over who owed whom a counteroffer.

After the August 22 meeting, showrunners and even the head of the teamsters began to pressure the WGA’s negotiating commitee. There was no aggression from any party towards the WGA, just a desire to put this industry back to work, and stop members at all levels from loosing their homes. The deep freeze between the studios and the guild finally began to thaw on the evening of Sept. 10, after Keyser (head of WGA Neg Com) spoke with Zaslav. He then called Iger in a conversation that, according to knowledgeable sources, lasted more than an hour and was “very honest and direct.” That night he also spoke with studio heads Sarandos and Langley. They agreed that there was no point in arguing about which side owed the other a counteroffer; the objective was to put the industry back to work, ending the misery that had spread well beyond the guild membership and preventing what some executives feared would be permanent damage to the business. Iger committed to staying in the room as long as necessary to achieve the goal, as did the other three executives on the team. All the ceo’s cleared their calendars, it was time to make this work.

The executives’ pledge to stay in the room until a deal was done was challenged on the afternoon of Sept. 21, when the CEOs believed they were inches away from an agreement. After a lot of slow-going in the early part of the negotiation, the studio group had presented a package that they believed addressed the guild’s key concerns. The offer included minimum staffing for writers rooms, AI protections and success-based residuals for streaming. According to sources, the guild came in with what the studio side saw as a late ask( we question now whether the CEOs have forgotten what social media is though), seeking a deal point that would protect members if they declined to cross other unions’ picket lines, though the WGA had been signaling for weeks that it would seek such a provision. Iger angrily left the room, as did the other executives. According to sources, Zaslav said to the other side, “What are you guys doing? We’re on the 10-yard line … we’ve given you virtually everything you said you wanted.” Iger briefly returned to admonish the guild negotiators that this was a serious moment requiring them to think carefully. Sources say in the end, Keyser reached out to Iger and the talks resumed.

While the deal still needs to be approved by the guild membership, the hope is that the studios can then reach an agreement with SAG-AFTRA relatively quickly and get the town back to work. Yet even with a negotiated peace potentially in sight, there are those in the guild who feel that the challenges facing their profession will persist. 

What do you think? Will AI evolve in 3 years to such a level that the unions may be back at the negotiating table arguing for more protections and safeguards? Should the federal governement regulate AI despite is nascent state? Let us know your thoughts below.