Hollywood writers to return to work today; studios now turn attention to Screen Actors Guild

Members of the Writers Guild of America will return from the picket lines Wednesday after nearly five months on strike against the major Hollywood studios that centered on the future economic structure of the industry. 

The strike, which began May 2 and shut down scores of productions, talk and reality shows and scripted series, officially ended at 12:01 A.M. Wednesday morning, meaning that writers can be back at work. The tentative three-year agreement now goes to a member vote for final approval. 

The agreement is a landmark in entertainment labor contracts and delivers many of the writers’ demands. It provides a 5% immediate minimum pay bump followed by a 4% and 3.5% increase for the second and third years. The agreement would also increase contributions to pensions and benefits. 

Residuals — payment for future reruns and streamings of original shows — will also increase. As part of the agreement, streaming platforms such as Hulu and Netflix will release view counts for shows to the WGA, under a confidentiality agreement, and will provide bonuses based on views. The agreement also carved out rules for a minimum number of writers and a minimum weekly pay rate for members. 

In a major shift, the agreement will heavily restrict the use of material generated by artificial intelligence programs. If the contract is approved, AI material cannot be considered source material and “can’t be used to undermine a writer ‘s credit or separated rights.”

With the writers strike ended, the Hollywood studios are now turning their attention fully to the still-striking actors of the Screen Actors Guild, who have been on the picket lines since mid-July. 

Since the actors have demanded many of the same things as the writers, from improved residuals to AI restrictions, it seems likely that a deal could come together quickly. Solidarity between striking actors and writers has been strong as well, meaning it will be difficult for the studios not to give SAG what it is seeking as well. 

The end of the WGA strikes also ends a historic moment in entertainment labor. The most recent strike marks the first time that actors and writers have been on strike together since the 1960s. 

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