A prevailing theory about how long the writers’ strike will last is that the WGA will have a framework for its contract if the studios reach a settlement with the Directors Guild or Screen Actors Guild, leaving the writers on an island. That’s pretty much what happened in 2007-08.
But according to a new message from WGA leadership, that won’t happen this time.
In a message to members Thursday titled “AMPTP Playbook Won’t Work,” the WGA negotiating committee said it would not allow studios to drive unions divisive. And if they are to resolve the strike, which has now been going on for a full month, the studios “will have to negotiate with the WGA about our full agenda”.
The guild accused the AMPTP of operating on a “divide and conquer” strategy, saying it specifically enacted a plan to repeat the pattern that played out in 2007-2008. They also said the studios were “gaslighting” WGA members and trying to create an image that the writers would be “unreasonable” if the other two corporations reached a deal.
“Suspend an agreement with the DGA until after the WGA contract expiration date so that, in the event of a writers’ strike, the AMPTP can impose a model DGA on the WGA. Even better if they can also strike a deal with SAG-AFTRA. They would then claim that the writers were unreasonable,” the letter to members read. “They pretended they couldn’t negotiate with the WGA in May because of negotiations with the DGA. to give life to the strategy of divide and conquer. The essence of the strategy is to make agreements with a few unions and tell the rest that is all there is. It is gaslighting and it only works if the unions are divided”.
The WGA, however, says the unions are much more united this time around, pointing to a statement of solidarity released yesterday which was signed by WGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and Teamsters 399 in support of the DGA talks, as well as by SAG-L appealed by AFTRA for a vote on the authorization of the strike before its negotiations.
“AMPTP was supposed to make an equitable deal with the writers by May 1st. But they haven’t, as they are apparently intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the writing profession,” the guild said. “Over the past month, writers have followed in the footsteps of many generations before they went on strike to ensure their collective future in this business. We will keep marching until the companies negotiate fairly with us. We do so now with the support of our brother guilds and unions, and we will back them whenever their turn comes. The age of divide et empire is over”.
DGA negotiations are currently underway and the guild contract expires on June 30th. SAG negotiations begin on June 7 and also have a contract that expires on June 30. they share priorities with the other guilds such as fighting for better stream residues, data transparency, and regulating the use of AI.
The AMPTP declined to comment.
Read the full memo, “AMPTP Playbook Won’t Work,” sent to WGA members on Thursday below:
The AMPTP playbook was to divide and conquer… work.
The AMPTP was formed in the 1980s when major industry employers decided they were tired of unions’ decades of gains by engaging in their own divide-and-conquer strategy – choosing one employer (or group of employers work) to get a good deal that the rest of the industry studies had to follow.
The business unit’s AMPTP strategy has been hugely successful for the companies. Labor costs have been contained in an industry where workers have enormous power as companies have reaped billions upon billions in profits, year after year. There have only been two strikes in the last 35 years – 2007/08 and now.
While the employers were united, the work was less so. Until recently.
During the last WGA strike, the SAG was supportive, but relations with some of the other unions were tense. While the writers were off the picket lines, the DGA negotiated their own deal long before the contract expired, which included some (but not all) of the goals the writers sought.
In the middle contract cycles, union solidarity in Hollywood was limited. The DGA negotiated first, well before the deadline, and the AMPTP’s implied message was that the WGA or other unions would have to strike to get a better deal than the already established framework.
In this bargaining cycle, the industry began beating the strike drum long before the WGA’s bargaining demands were formulated, let alone actual negotiations began. The AMPTP has set in motion a strategy designed to be a repeat of 2007/08. Divide and conquer. Suspend a deal with the DGA until after the WGA contract expiration date so that, in the event of a writers strike, the AMPTP can force a DGA model on the WGA. Even better if they can also strike a deal with SAG-AFTRA. They would then claim that the writers were unreasonable.
That strategy, however, depends on divided unions. This year is different. All unions in the city came out in support of the WGA, both during the negotiations and after the strike began. The DGA has been clear that it is facing tough and critical negotiation to meet the needs of its members. Yesterday we joined a statement together with SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and Teamsters 399 in solidarity with the DGA in their negotiations. SAG-AFTRA is voting on authorizing the strike as negotiations begin to address the existential issues its members are facing. Teamsters, IATSE and other entertainment union members graced WGA pickets across the country.
However, the AMPTP remains true to its strategy.
They pretended they couldn’t negotiate with the WGA in May because of the negotiations with the DGA. It’s a lie. It’s a choice they made in hopes of bringing the divide and conquer strategy to life. The essence of the strategy is to strike deals with a few unions and tell the rest that’s all there is. It’s gaslighting and it only works if the unions are divided.
Our position is clear: to resolve the strike, companies will need to negotiate our full agenda with the WGA.
The AMPTP was supposed to make an equitable deal with the writers by May 1st. But they haven’t, as they seem intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the writing profession. Over the past month, writers have followed in the footsteps of many generations before who went on strike to secure their collective future in this industry. We will keep marching until the companies negotiate fairly with us. We do this now with the support of our brother guilds and unions, and we will support them whenever their turn comes. The age of divide and conquer is over.
WGA NEGOTIATION COMMITTEE