This is not 2008.
That was the message sent on Thursday by the Writers Guild of America, which argues that the current strike — now a month old — will not end the way the last one did 15 years ago.
In 2008, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers got a deal with the Directors Guild of America, which set the pattern for the deal that ended the writers strike after 100 days.
In an email to members, the WGA argued that the studios are once again pursuing a similar “divide and conquer” strategy.
“That strategy, however, depends on divided unions,” the WGA told its members. “This year is different.”
The WGA argued that the Hollywood guilds are united in a way they weren’t in 2008, and that they won’t be forced to go along with “pattern” bargaining.
“The essence of the strategy is to make deals with some unions and tell the rest that’s all there is,” the WGA said. “It’s gaslighting, and it only works if unions are divided.”
The WGA emphasized that the strike will only end when the companies agree to negotiate “on our full agenda.”
The DGA is currently negotiating its contract with the AMPTP, and it has only a few days left before the studios are scheduled to begin talks with SAG-AFTRA. The DGA is focused primarily on getting a better deal on streaming residuals, with a formula that will account for the growth in international subscribers.
The WGA is also interested in such a formula, but has many other demands as well, including a minimum staff size for TV writers rooms, a minimum number of weeks of work per show, provisions on artificial intelligence, and a streaming formula that pays more for popular shows. The DGA is not believed to be pursuing those items.
On Wednesday, the WGA issued a joint statement with other Hollywood unions expressing support for a fair contract with the DGA, arguing it would benefit “every worker” in the industry. The same message noted that the DGA had “unique priorities.”
Since the outset of the strike, writers have been told that the DGA probably will get a deal, but that such a deal will not resolve the strike because it will not address most of the writers’ issues.
The full email follows:
The AMPTP playbook has been to divide and conquer…labor.
The AMPTP was formed in the 1980s when the industry’s major employers decided they were tired of the decades of gains made by unions when engaging in their own divide and conquer strategy – choosing an employer (or employer group) to get a good deal that the rest of the industry studios had to follow.
The AMPTP strategy of corporate unity has been wildly successful for the companies. Labor costs have been contained in an industry where workers have tremendous power while the companies reaped billions on billions in profit, year after year. During the last 35 years, there have been only two strikes – 2007/08 and now.
While the employers were united, labor has been less so. Until recently.
During the last WGA strike, SAG was supportive but relations with some of the other unions were strained. While writers were out on picket lines, the DGA negotiated its own deal far ahead of its contract expiration, which included some (but not all) of the goals writers sought.
In the intervening contract cycles, union solidarity in Hollywood was limited. The DGA negotiated first, far ahead of their deadline, and the implicit message from the AMPTP was that the WGA or other unions would have to strike to get a better deal than the pattern already set.
This bargaining cycle, the industry began beating the strike drum far in advance of the WGA’s formulation of bargaining demands, let alone the start of actual negotiations. The AMPTP set a strategy in motion designed to be a repeat of 2007/08. Divide and conquer. Hold off a deal with the DGA until after the WGA contract expiration date so that in the event of a writers’ strike the AMPTP could force a DGA pattern on the WGA. Even better if they could also sew up a deal with SAG-AFTRA. They would then claim that the writers were being unreasonable.
That strategy, however, depends on divided unions. This year is different. Every union in town came out in support of the WGA, both during negotiations and after the start of the strike. The DGA has been clear that it is facing a tough and critical negotiation to address its members’ needs. Yesterday, we joined a statement along with SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and Teamsters 399 in solidarity with the DGA in their negotiations. SAG-AFTRA is taking a strike authorization vote as they enter negotiations to address the existential issues its members are facing. Teamsters, IATSE, and other entertainment union members have been honoring WGA picket lines across the country.
Still, the AMPTP remains committed to its strategy.
They pretended they couldn’t negotiate with the WGA in May because of negotiations with the DGA. That’s a lie. It’s a choice they made in hope of breathing life into the divide and conquer strategy. The essence of the strategy is to make deals with some unions and tell the rest that’s all there is. It’s gaslighting, and it only works if unions are divided.
Our position is clear: to resolve the strike, the companies will have to negotiate with the WGA on our full agenda.
The AMPTP should have made a fair deal with writers by May 1st. But they didn’t, as they are seemingly intent on continuing their efforts to destroy the profession of writing. For the last month, writers have followed in the footsteps of many generations before who went on strike to secure their collective future in this business. We will continue to march until the companies negotiate fairly with us. We do it now with the support of our sister guilds and unions, and we will support them whenever it’s their turn. The era of divide and conquer is over.
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