Saying that the studios are shackled together in a “mutual suicide pact,” WGA negotiating committee co-chair Chris Keyser said today in a video message to members that the only way for the companies to end the ongoing strike is to come back to the bargaining table and addressing all of the guild’s demands.
For the guild, he said, “that means addressing the relentless mistreatment of screenwriters, which has only been exacerbated by the move to streaming; the continued denial of full MBA protections to comedy/variety and other Appendix A writers when they work in streaming, and the self-destructive, unsustainable dismantling of the process by which episodic television is made and episodic television writers are paid. It means addressing the existential threat of AI, and the insufficiency of streaming residual formulas, including the need for transparency, and a success-based component.
“All of these will need to be addressed for there to be a deal, because in this strike, it is our power, and not their pattern, that matters. Not their strategy. Their strategy has failed them.”
The video had not been posted on social media as of Wednesday afternoon. The guild is in the 86th day of its strike, with no end in sight.
“Now they are in a streaming war with each other, an admittedly difficult transition, and as they face the future, their interest and business models could not be more different: from Disney to Fox, to Netflix to Amazon,” Keyser says in the video. “We root for their success – all of them. They root for each other’s failure. We are the creative ammunition through which they will succeed; they are each other’s apex predators.
“And yet, in a singular shared dedication to denying labor, they have shackled themselves together in what increasingly seems like a mutual suicide pact, as the 2023-24 broadcast season and the 2024-25 movie schedule and its streaming shows disappear, melt away, week by week.”
In a message accompanying the video, the guild’s negotiating committee said: “With SAG-AFTRA now on strike and new levels of solidarity across all Hollywood unions, we are witnessing the spectacular failure of the AMPTP’s negotiating strategy. Production is at a standstill, the media companies are beginning to feel investor pressure, and writers and actors have galvanized broad public and political support. As hard as it has been – and will continue to be until we reach a satisfactory deal – we near the end of our 13th week on strike in a position of strength.”
Noting that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are now both on strike together for the first time since 1960, and speaking directly to the studio bosses, Keyser said: “We are not your enemies. We are not merely a cost to be borne. We are your partners and your greatest asset. And we are, as you acknowledge yourselves, irreplaceable. “But by accident or design, and it doesn’t really matter anymore, the business you are running no longer works for those who work for you. What is the point in continuing to deny it? Why deny it when everyone else in the business, to a person, tell you it’s true? Do you think it’s a coincidence that two unions are on strike against you for the first time since Eisenhower was President?
“There is no profit in insisting on the answers of the past to the questions of the future. But if you want, instead, to invest in something that will reap you fortunes, I have a tip: if you are visionaries, envision a solution, not a stalemate. Because this isn’t a war we’re in, it’s a negotiation. It’s just a negotiation. There is no face-saving here for either side because there is no winner or loser. It’s just a deal.”
Then, extending an “olive branch,” he said:
“And when you come to remember that again, we will be here, as we have been here all along. And at this point, with 170,000 writers and actors aligned against your intransigence, that is as generous as I can be; as close to an olive branch as I can offer.
“But if you insist, instead, on the same threatening rhetoric, on saying you would rather starve us than pay us, I would remind you of this: you are fighting for a dollar; we are fighting for survival. We are fighting for our home. Writing is where we live, and we will defend that home with all the bravery and stamina and ferocity that you will come to understand some day.
“Which is why you cannot break us. You cannot outlast us. You cannot, and not just because we have the will, but because we have power. Nothing in this business happens until we start to write, and we will not start to write until we are paid.”
In fact, writers can write during the strike. They just can’t sell or pitch scripts until the strike is over.