Two days into the Writers Guild of America’s first strike in 15 years, union leadership gathered members for a “rowdy” and “boisterous” meeting. Wednesday night at LA’s Arena Auditorium.
The venue, which previously hosted events like the Academy Awards and the Grammys, drew 1,800 WGA members who gathered to hear from leaders about what led to a breakdown in negotiations between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. With representatives from six different entertainment unions in attendance, the rally turned into an inter-union solidarity rally. (The temple has a capacity of 6,300.)
“I’ve been around for 25 years and I’ve never seen all the unions united or on the same page,” said one organizer who attended. THR After hearing the leaders of each club speak. “They’re all so screwed by these companies that they know the only way to win is to stick together. It’s a million percent different than last time.
The LA event, which took place earlier at New York’s Cooper Union, opened with a standing ovation for the WGA’s lead negotiator, Ellen Stutzman, after the union’s executive director, David Young, of the western branch. On medical leave at the end of February.
“The only way we can beat these mother f–kers is if we do it together,” said Lindsey Dougherty, president of Teamsters Local 399. He was one of several industrial labor figures who joined the writers in the auditorium on Wednesday: In addition to the Teamsters, The Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA also sent executives to the meeting, while representatives from the International Labor Union of the North. USA, Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons International Association and IADSE also emerged. The DGA and SAG-AFTRA’s contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expire June 30, which some industry insiders worry could lead to more strikes from one or both. “You told me to give up the profit on subscriptions?” DGA Negotiations Chair John Avnett said from the podium.
Dougherty added as he left the venue Wednesday night The Hollywood Reporter As the industry’s unions have faced the Covid pandemic and various bitter conflicts with entertainment companies in the last few years, “we all realized recently that the only way to beat them is [entertainment companies], speaking is being together. Because they do the same thing over and over again: they merge into AMPTP. We must unite as unions and guilds in Hollywood.
Showrunner Mike Schiff (relative) The gathering of labor leaders from across the unions marks a change since the guild’s last strike in 2007-2008. “In 2007, I thought there might have been some resentment.” While he says he never feels personal from colleagues, “Sure I’m like, wait, we want to work, what are you doing?” This year, “Having all those unions there, knowing that our fight is their fight, showing their support, and vice versa, that was really heartwarming.”
WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chairman Chris Keyser was the evening’s keynote speaker. While he shared that AMPTP doesn’t want to avoid using artificial intelligence, he doesn’t want to take new technology off the table that studios “want to use in the future.” . The guild has proposed regulating the use of AI, banning its use for writing or rewriting scripts, and ensuring that material from writers cannot be used to train AI. The AMPTP rejected the proposal and, according to the WGA, countered only by offering annual meetings to discuss advances in technology.
Keyser noted that AMPTP’s lead negotiator referred to free rewrites by screenwriters as “collaboration,” which seemed alienating to members. AMPTP’s agreement to provide script payment for employees drew strong support from the chamber. Staff writers currently only receive their weekly salary and are not compensated for their scripts.
The meeting, which began at 7:40 p.m., lasted several hours and included a question-and-answer session with WGA leaders, intended to explain to members the events of the negotiations that abruptly broke off on May 1, as well as to paint a picture. Writers have been waiting weeks for picketing and answering questions from members. Participants were given a prepackaged meal from Wolfgang Puck. “There’s always food,” said one, adding that another gave them extra food on their way out.
Sources inside the temple described the atmosphere as one of solidarity, with many members vowing to fight and remain committed to the guild. demands. “it is a Amazing An expression of unity and determination. I have never seen anything like this and I have been in this union for almost 25 years,” said another organizer THR From inside the arena. Several additional writers stood and remarked on the volume of applause: “I’ve lost count,” said one film and television writer on his way out. “The place was on its feet, roaring.” Jeff Roth, who recently wrote a film for Amazon, said, “The mood was rowdy, it was rough. People were getting shot.”
A staff writer experiencing his first strike as a member of the WGA added: “It’s wild. Great unity. All are hopeful and optimistic. All other unions rallied behind us. Picket lines cannot be crossed. They all stand by the WGA.
Corey Dashan and Isaac Gomes, who joined the guild in the past few years, became more enthusiastic about the WGA’s focus on alleviating the increasing pressures brought to bear on what became known as “mini rooms.” Recently worked with Amazon. They see the adoption of such reforms as linked to achieving a living wage. “The goalposts are being moved as reserved voices finally get access to this business, which is really fun,” notes Dashan.
After leaving the shrine, they felt that the responsibility was now in the studio to revive the talks. (Participants weren’t told when either side could return to the table.) “The big misconception of a strike is that the walkers are responsible,” Gomez said. “No, it’s the ones who don’t come to the table.”
Peter Hancoff, a WGA member since 1978, left the auditorium satisfied, noting that he was now on his fifth strike and that “this is the best union membership meeting I’ve ever been to — I’ve ever been to. A lot Among them. I’m not nearly as pessimistic. He added, “This is the tightest negotiating team I have ever seen. It feels cohesive. There is a feeling of victory. I haven’t felt that way every time.”
The picketing resumes Thursday at 9 a.m. PT in Los Angeles and at Broadway Stages in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. ET in front of several production locations.