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WGA Says In Labor Day Message That Companies “In Process Of Wrestling Amongst Themselves” For Deal To End Strikes

The Writers Guild released a video on Labor Day Monday, saying that the studios “are in the process of wrestling amongst themselves” for a deal to end the ongoing writers’ strike, which is now in its 126th day.

“We are not on strike out of greed, nor do we begrudge the companies their success or deny their struggles. We must all succeed together,” WGA Negotiating Committee co-chair Chris Keyser says in the video addressing WGA members. “But the changes that the companies have orchestrated in the business have made the profession of writing untenable for us and for everyone who comes after us. And that hasn’t changed because they waited 102 days to talk to us and taken their time since then. Our feet and backs may ache, but our cause is the same. Our case is the same.”

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Keyser then cited all the major strike issues: “The erosion of pay. The abuse of screenwriters. The failure to protect Appendix A writers in the move to streaming. The dismantling of the writing process in episodic television. The threat of AI. The refusal to provide streaming residuals that grow with viewership. Each of these things is an existential issue for some or all of us.

“Which is why we have said to the companies: writers have and will negotiate the solutions to these problems, but we’re not going to pick and choose amongst them. We’re not going to leave any sector of the Guild behind. These things must be resolved. And not with contract language that has a one-to-one ratio of promises to loopholes. Truly resolved.

“Of course, that’s not the AMPTP way. And it’s a hard thing to give up on something that has served them so well for 40 years.  They are in the process of wrestling amongst themselves, ramping up their public relations, and coming to terms with the fact that – with writers on strike – and actors on strike behind them – this negotiation is different. And they are going to have to do more – offer more – than they usually do.  Much of our frustration with how long this is taking stems from that – from their internal bargaining. But they will get there.”

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers delivered its latest counteroffer to the guild on August 11, which the guild has described as “neither nothing nor nearly enough.”

The two side haven’t met at the bargaining table since August. 22, when the WGA Negotiating Committee sat down with AMPTP president Carol Lombardini and top executives at four major companies: Disney’s Bob Iger, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav.

“During the meeting with the CEOs, we spent two hours explaining that, though progress had been made, the language of the AMPTP’s offer was, as is typical of that body, a version of giving with one hand and taking back with the other,” the WGA told its members after the AMPTP issued a press release detailing its latest counteroffer. “Despite the AMPTP’s attempt at a detour around us, we remain committed to direct negotiations with the companies. That’s actually how a deal gets made and the strike ends.”

This Labor Day, Keyser says in today’s video, “is a celebration of the dignity and value of those who work, our acknowledgment that this country was built by people who take home a paycheck. For us though, this is not a celebration. Not yet. For us it’s just a day off, a time to rest — to rest up to finish the job. We have no choice. We are either proof, or disproof, of the proposition for which we stand, which is that there are limits to which workers can be treated, that management, by siege and by silence, cannot just wait us out. And that labor, when it bands together in opposition, can have its day.

“For labor all across the country, this is the message: We and everyone who strikes with us, are the beacon of hope. We carry the flag. On this Labor Day, the eyes of labor are on us. So tomorrow we will pick up where we left off, with a message of determination and resilience, but also of openness. We have never been the companies’ enemies; we are not their enemies now. We are their creative partners, first and foremost. That is our goal: to win a fair deal, and to be that again. We’ll get there.”

Watch the video above. Read Keyser’s full comments below.

Fellow members of the WGA, East, and West – I wanted to take a few minutes on Labor Day, 2023, to acknowledge the meaning of this moment.

This is not, strictly speaking, an update on negotiations. I’m recording this message a few days before the holiday.

Let me start by thanking the Guild staff – everyone who works at the Guild. They are labor, too. And they have dedicated their working lives to the cause of writers and writing. Over the course of this year, they have given everything they have for us.  And everything we will one day gain, we owe, in large part, to them.

We need to acknowledge the members of SAG-AFTRA, who march on picket lines alongside us every day. Labor’s strength comes from numbers. And 171,000 irreplaceable workers is a pretty damn good number.  We have each other’s backs, SAG-AFTRA and the WGA.  We say that out loud – on this Labor Day — we are all in this together. Together there is no way around us. And the only way through is to treat us fairly.

Still, we’ve seen in this strike that the system is inherently cruel.  It requires not only that we bleed in order to succeed, but that others do too. If writers could have avoided that, and still demanded and won what we need to survive, we would have done it.  

So, to those members of other unions, crews and drivers, everyone who makes a living in and around this business, who is not on strike, but for whom the strike is causing real pain, we owe you a great debt.  We will not forget what you have done for us: the Teamsters and IATSE, Laborers and Electrical Workers, Musicians and other craft workers – and everyone else.

What we promise you is this – as you have stood with us, we will stand with you one day, when it is your turn.  That is how labor gets its due. For all its costs, it is the only way.

In the meantime, the guilds, and unions of this industry – and its individual members – have set aside or raised more money – tens of millions of dollars – in four months – to protect and support each other – than we are asking many of these companies to pay us for an entire year.

This strike has brought out so much goodness in people – so much bravery and resilience, selflessness, and generosity.

And nowhere is that more apparent than in the membership of the WGA itself. On behalf of the Negotiating Committee, Board and Council – it is our greatest honor to lead you through this struggle.

To the lot coordinators and the incredible corps of strike captains – and to every individual member of this Guild – you are marvels. You are models of what dignity means. Everything that has made you writers: your sense of humor, your sense of responsibility to the world, your sensitivity to the plight of others, your conscience, your courage, your ability to persevere through obstacle after obstacle – all these things, you bring to this fight. And they have served you well.

We do not write because it’s easy. We write because we have no other choice. The same with the fight to save writing itself.  It’s not easy, but we have no other choice.

On Labor Day, it’s worth remembering that.

We are not on strike out of greed.  Nor do we begrudge the companies their success or deny their struggles.  We all must succeed together. But the changes the companies have orchestrated in the business have made the profession of writing untenable for us and for everyone who comes after us.

That fact hasn’t changed because they waited 102 days to talk to us – and taken their time since then. Our feet and backs may ache, but our cause is the same. Our case is the same.

We all know the list by heart by now: The erosion of pay. The abuse of screenwriters. The failure to protect Appendix A writers in the move to streaming. The dismantling of the writing process in episodic television. The threat of AI. The refusal to provide streaming residuals that grow with viewership. 

Each of these things is an existential issue for some or all of us.

Which is why we have said to the companies: writers have and will negotiate the solutions to these problems, but we’re not going to pick and choose amongst them. We’re not going to leave any sector of the Guild behind.

These things must be resolved. And not with contract language that has a one-to-one ratio of promises to loopholes. Truly resolved.

Of course, that’s not the AMPTP way. And it’s a hard thing to give up on something that has served them so well for 40 years.  They are in the process of wrestling amongst themselves, ramping up their public relations, and coming to terms with the fact that – with writers on strike – and actors on strike behind them – this negotiation is different. And they are going to have to do more – offer more – than they usually do.  Much of our frustration with how long this is taking stems from that – from their internal bargaining. But they will get there.

None of which protects us from being scared sometimes and tired all the time. It doesn’t mean we don’t wish for this to be over. There’s not one of us who wants to be on strike one day longer than is necessary.

But, in fact, they have made us stronger than we ever imagined we could be. Because there is no point in going back to jobs that may not be there in a year or two. No point in going back to jobs that don’t sustain a career.  No point in us permitting the AMPTP to enforce a system that bankrupts our health and pension plan to the devastation of every writer, regardless of their position in the industry.

They have given us the awful gift of endurance.

As for the companies, they are increasingly alone. Voices on Wall Street that were skeptical of their strategy are growing louder and more persistent. The Trades that used to take their sides are calling them out. The states of California and New York, whose welfare they have brushed aside, have raised the alarm. So have public pension plans.  Their platforms are running low on fresh product — and soon they will be asking their customers to subsidize their intransigence. All of which is not a path forward.

One more thing I want to say: This strike will end. And we will go back to work. And it will be better when it’s over.  But we will also remember it for what it was. In a world where we’re mostly asked to take care of ourselves, and maybe a small group of people around us, this is something else – something pretty rare. I feel it every time I turn a corner and see five hundred people on a picket line – or see a lone neutral gate observer, patiently doing their job – or watch a captain keeping people safe when a light changes. I feel an overwhelming sense of love. And connection. To people most of whom I’ve never met and may never meet again. We’re each here for ourselves, of course. But mostly we’re here for everyone else. I’m doing this for you – you’re doing this for me. That’s the only way it makes sense. And that is ours to keep, even when this is over, and we go back to our own, individual lives. This fight we fought together.

That is where things stand on Labor Day, 2023.

Which is a celebration of the dignity and value of those who work. An acknowledgement that this country was built by the people who take home a paycheck.

For us, though, it is not a celebration. Not yet. For us, it’s just a day off. A time to rest. Rest up to finish the job.

We have no choice. We are either proof or disproof of the proposition for which we stand, which is that there are limits to how workers can be treated — that management, by siege and by silence, cannot just wait us out – and that labor, when it bands together in opposition, can have its day.

For labor across the country, this is the message. We – and everyone who strikes with us — are the beacon of hope. We carry the flag.  On this Labor Day, the eyes of labor are on us.

So, tomorrow, we will pick up where we left off.  With a message of determination and resilience, but also of openness. We have never been the companies’ enemies. We are not their enemies now. We are their creative partners, first and foremost. That is our goal. To win a fair deal and to be that again. We’ll get there.

In the meantime, get some rest.  We still have some work to do.

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