Two days after the Writers Guild of America’s first strike in 15 years began, union leaders gathered members for a ‘raucous’ and ‘noisy’ meeting at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.
The venue, which previously hosted events such as the Oscars and Grammys, drew more than 1,800 WGA members who gathered to hear leaders talk about what led to the breakdown of negotiations between the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – and ended up becoming something of a cross-union solidarity rally, with representatives from six different entertainment unions taking part. (The sanctuary has a capacity of 6,300 people.)
“It’s been about 25 years since I’ve seen all the unions so united or on the same page,” said a showrunner in attendance. THR after hearing the leaders of each of the guilds speak. “They are all getting screwed over by these companies and they know the only way to win is to stick together. It’s a million percent different from last time.
The Los Angeles event, which followed a counterpart meeting at New York’s Cooper Union earlier in the day, opened with a standing ovation for Ellen Stutzman, the WGA’s chief negotiator who took office. after the West Branch of the union’s executive director, David Young, went on sick leave in late February.
“The only way to beat these motherfuckers is to do it together,” Lindsay Dougherty, the leader of Teamsters Local 399, told attendees. She was one of several industry labor figures who joined 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 Workers’ International Union of North America, Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association and IATSE also made an appearance. DGA and SAG-AFTRA’s contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) both expire on June 30, leading some industry players to fear an additional strike by one or both. “Did you tell them to give up the profits for the subscriptions? DGA Negotiations Chairman John Avnet said from the stage.
As she left the room on Wednesday night, Dougherty added to The Hollywood Reporter that since industry unions have faced the COVID pandemic and various tough showdowns with entertainment companies over the past few years, “we’ve all realized lately that the only way to beat them (the entertainment companies), so to speak, is to be together. Because that’s what they do, time and time again: they unite as AMPTPs. Hollywood.
Showrunner Mike Schiff (The neighborhood) felt that the assembly of the event of union leaders from all unions marked a change from the guild’s last strike, in 2007-2008. “In 2007, I thought maybe there was resentment.” While he says he’s never felt that personally from his colleagues, “certainly I felt like, wait, we want to work, what are you doing?” This year, “to have all these unions there and expressing their support, knowing that our fight is their fight and vice versa, it was very encouraging.”
WGA Bargaining Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser was the evening’s keynote speaker. When he shared that the AMPTP didn’t want to budge on the use of artificial intelligence because the studios didn’t want to take new technology off the table that they “might want to use in the future,” the crowd booed defiant support. . The guild proposed to regulate the use of AI and prohibit its use to write or rewrite scripts and ensure that writers’ materials cannot be used to train AI. The AMPTP rejected the proposal and only retaliated by proposing annual meetings to discuss technological advancements, according to the WGA.
Keyser also noted that the AMPTP’s chief negotiator called gratuitous rewrites by screenwriters “collaborative,” which also seemed to alienate members. AMPTP’s agreement to pay script fees for staff writers drew a strong show of support from the room. Screenwriters currently only earn their weekly salary and are not paid 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, was intended to update members on the events of the negotiations that came to an abrupt halt on May 1, as well as to chart the weeks in advance for writers in terms of picketing and answering questions from members. Attendees received pre-packaged food from Wolfgang Puck. “There is always food,” said one, while another said he received an extra meal when he left.
Sources inside the shrine described the atmosphere as a showcase of solidarity, with many members vowing to fight on and stand firm in the guild’s demands. “It’s a amazing proof of unity and determination. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve been in this union for almost 25 years,” another showrunner said. THR from inside the room. A number of other writers remarked on the sheer volume of standing ovations: “I’ve lost count of the number,” one film and television writer said on leaving. “The place was on its feet, roaring.” Geoff Roth, who recently wrote a film for Amazon which is currently shooting, added: “The atmosphere was rowdy, it was raucous. People ignited. »
Added a staff writer experiencing his first strike as a member of the WGA: “It’s wild. Huge solidarity. Everyone is motivated and full of hope. All the other unions came to support us and walk with us. No crossing picket lines. They are all in solidarity with the WGA.
Corey Dashaun and Isaac Gomez, who have both joined the guild in recent years, are particularly energized by the WGA’s focus on easing the growing pressures that have been brought to bear on what has come to be known as of “mini rooms”, which they had recently worked together at Amazon. They consider that the pursuit of these reforms is linked to obtaining a living wage. “It’s great fun to see that as marginalized voices finally get into this business, the goal posts are moved,” Dashaun notes.
As they left Sanctuary, they felt it was now up to the studios to get the talks going again. (Attendees weren’t told when the two sides could return to the table.) “The big misconception of a strike is that it’s those who walk who are responsible,” Gomez said. “No, those are the ones who don’t come to the table.”
Peter Hankoff, a WGA member since 1978, left the auditorium satisfied, noting that he was now on his fifth strike and “this is the best union membership meeting I have ever attended – and I participated in a plot two. I’m almost not pessimistic. He added, “It’s the tightest bargaining committee I’ve ever seen. He feels united. We feel that we are going to win. I didn’t feel like that every time.
Pickets are scheduled to resume outside several production sites Thursday at 9 a.m. PT in Los Angeles and on Broadway stages in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. ET.