As expected, the Writers Guild of America passed a strike authorization vote on Monday, with 97.85 percent of voters in favor of the strike. As of now, the two sides remain far apart on a new deal, with the current contract due to expire on May 1.
According to the guild, 78.79 percent of eligible members cast ballots, and personally, I imagine that many didn’t even bother voting since the outcome here was practically pre-ordained.
“These results set a new record for both participation and the percentage of support in a strike authorization vote. Our membership has spoken. You have expressed your collective strength, solidarity, and the demand for meaningful change in overwhelming numbers. Armed with this demonstration of unity and resolve, we will continue to work at the negotiating table to achieve a fair contract for all writers,” the guild said in an email to members.
Of course, just because a strike has been authorized doesn’t mean that one will occur — this just gives WGA negotiators leverage at the negotiating table, knowing that the members have their backs. As such, negotiations are expected to go down to the wire. With the guild showing a united front here, the studios may not sense an opportunity to divide and conquer — they may actually have no choice but to pay the writers what they’re worth — which is a lot, considering that everything starts on the page.
As the deadline looms, the WGA is pushing AMPTP for increased compensation, including higher minimums, a better residual formula for streaming content, and a minimum staffing requirement for all TV shows. The guild is also seeking greater flexibility for TV writers, who often aren’t able to take other gigs during their hiatus between seasons.
For its part, the AMPTP issued a statement saying it was hardly surprised by the outcome of the strike authorization vote, and that “our goal is, and continues to be, to reach a fair and reasonable agreement.”
Negotiations began on March 20 and are expected to resume this week, though the two sides could also agree to extend the current contract in place and continue talks in good faith rather. That may be the preferred option as opposed to a strike less than two weeks from now, but then again, the situation is dire, as there’s no time to waste.