For the first time in 15 years, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has called an official strike.
The organization of unionized TV and film writers had been locked in six weeks’ worth of heated negotiation with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over setting new standards in their film and scripted TV contract, according to Deadline. However, once an agreement could not be reached, WGA voted unanimously to call its members to halt all writing work and join picket lines on each coast.
“Though we negotiated intent on making a fair deal – and though your strike vote gave us the leverage to make some gains – the studios’ responses to our proposals have been wholly insufficient, given the existential crisis writers are facing,” the WGA said in a message sent directly to its members. “We must now exert the maximum leverage possible to get a fair contract by withholding our labor.”
Disgruntled writers reportedly cite disproportionate work/pay balances as the crux of their frustrations. According to the Associated Press, WGA seeks higher minimum pay rates, increased writing staff per production, and shorter exclusive contracts, saying that conditions for writers have only worsened since the increase in streaming has caused a surge in scripted content, thus creating a “gig economy” within the unionized workforce.
With the strike effective Tuesday, May 2 at midnight, several shows have already been affected. Late-night television has been hit hardest, as they rely on their writers’ room to churn out up-to-the-minute comedy content that speaks to the timely news of the day and week. The Daily Show, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, SNL, and Late Night with Seth Myers have all gone dark as result of the strikes. NBC and its late-night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Myers have agreed to cover partial wages for writers in the first weeks of the strike as a show of support, according to Variety.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the writers’ room for Abbott Elementary has also been cleared out in the wake of the strike, which could mean a truncated season 3 depending on how long the pickett lines persist.
The 2007-2008 writers strike lasted 100 days, arguably pushing reality television to the forefront of television entertainment as a result. Much like the current impasse, that strike was born of writers’ concerns for proper compensation as show episodes moved to new distribution platforms across digital platforms such as internet, iPods, and cellphones, according to The Hollywood Reporter.