Two days after the Writers Guild of America’s first strike in 15 years, union leadership gathered members for a “raucous” and “raucous” meeting at Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium on Wednesday night.
The venue, once home to events like the Academy Awards and the Grammys, drew more than 1,800 WGA members who gathered to hear from leaders about what led to the breakdown in negotiations between the union and the Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance — and ended up devolving into what looked like a solidarity rally between the unions. In the presence of representatives from six different entertainment federations. (The shrine has a capacity of 6,300 people).
One model who was in attendance said, “It’s been almost 25 years and I haven’t seen all unions like this or on the same page.” THR After hearing the leaders from each guild speak. “They are all being screwed differently by these companies and they know the only way to win is to stick together. It’s a million percent different than last time.”
The Los Angeles event, which followed a peer meeting at the Cooper Union in New York earlier in the day, opened with a standing ovation for Elaine Stutzman, the WGA’s chief negotiator who stepped into the role after the union’s Western Branch executive director, David Young, went on medical leave in late February. .
“The only way we’re going to beat these moms is if we do it together,” Lindsey Dougherty, President of Teamsters Local 399, told the audience. She was one of several industry labor figures to join writers in the room on Wednesday: In addition to the Teamsters, the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA also sent executives to the gathering, while representatives from the International Workers’ Union were sent north. Also featured were America, the International Association of Stucco and Cement Builders and IATSE. DGA and SAG-AFTRA’s contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expire on June 30, which has some players in the industry worried about an additional strike from one or both of them. “Did you tell them to forgo subscription earnings?” DGA negotiation chair Jon Avnett said from the stage.
Dougherty added that when I left the place Wednesday night Hollywood Reporter that since industry unions have faced the COVID pandemic and many difficult encounters with entertainment companies in the past few years, “we all realized recently that the only way we were going to get through [entertainment companies], so to speak, is to be together. Because that’s what they do, time and time again: they band together as AMPTP. We have to come together as unions and unions in Hollywood.”
Showrunner Mike Schiff (neighborhood) I felt that the meeting of cross-union labor leaders at the event marked a shift from the last union strike in 2007-2008. “In 2007, I thought maybe there was some resentment.” While he says he didn’t feel it personally from his colleagues, “I definitely felt like, wait, we want to work, what are you doing?” This year, “having all those unions out there and expressing their support, knowing that our struggle is their struggle and vice versa, was very encouraging.”
The WGA’s Negotiating Committee co-chair, Chris Keyser, was the keynote speaker for the night. When he shared that AMPTP didn’t want to budge on using AI because the studios didn’t want to take a new technology off the table that they “might want to use in the future,” the crowd booed in defiant support. The union proposed regulating the use of AI, banning its use for writing or rewriting texts, and ensuring that writers’ materials are not used to train AI. AMPTP rejected the proposal and responded only by offering annual meetings to discuss developments in the technology, according to the WGA.
Keser also noted that AMPTP’s chief negotiator referred to free rewrites by scriptwriters as “collaboration,” which also seems to alienate membership. The AMPTP agreement to pay staff writers’ script fees drew vociferous displays of support from the room. Currently, staff writers are only paid weekly and are not compensated for their scripts.
The meeting, which began at 7:40 pm, lasted several hours and included questions and answers with WGA leaders, was intended to bring to the members the events of the negotiations that abruptly stopped on May 1, as well as to paint a picture of the coming weeks for writers in terms of striking and answering members’ questions. Attendees were handed packaged food from Wolfgang Puck. “There’s always food,” said one, while another said they had an extra meal on their way out.
Sources inside the shrine described the atmosphere as a show of solidarity, with many members vowing to fight back and remain firm in the guild. stimulate. “It’s for amazing Show unity and determination. I’ve never seen anything like this, and I’ve been in this union for almost 25 years,” said another model. THR from inside the place. A number of additional writers commented on the size of the standing ovation: “I lost count,” said one film and TV writer on his way out. “The place was on its feet, snarling.” Jeff Roth, who recently wrote a movie for Amazon that was in transition, added, “The mood was raucous, it was raucous. People were excited.”
A staff writer witnessing his first strike as a WGA member added: “It’s outrageous. Massive solidarity. Everyone’s excited and hopeful. All the other unions have come out to support and march with us. No picket lines crossing. They all stand with the WGA.”
Corey Dashaun and Isaac Gomez, who both joined the union in the past few years, have been galvanized by the WGA’s focus on alleviating the mounting pressures that have been placed on what have come to be known as “small rooms,” one of which was their most recent appointment together at Amazon. They see that pursuing such reforms is linked to achieving a living wage. “It’s so funny that with marginalized voices finally reaching out to this business, Target fliers are being moved,” Dashawn notes.
Coming out of the shrine, they felt that the onus was now on the studios to bring the conversations to life. (The audience was not told when the parties might return to the table.) “The big misconception of the hit is that the walkers are to blame,” Gomez said. “No, these are the ones who don’t come to the table.”
Peter Hancoff, a WGA member since 1978, walked out of the room satisfied, noting that he was now on his fifth strike and “This is the best union membership meeting I’ve ever been in – and I’ve been in a lot who are they. I’m almost not pessimistic.” He added, “This is the toughest negotiating committee I’ve ever seen. It feels unified. Looks like we’ll win. I didn’t feel like this every time.”
The picks are set to resume in front of several production locations Thursday at 9 a.m. PT in Los Angeles and at Broadway Stages in Brooklyn at 11 a.m. ET.
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