Writers Guild of America strikes to increase funding for writers from large studios, 2007-2008

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
Though the strike lasted 100 days from 5 Nov 2007 to 12 Feb 2008 Strike, preparations before and negotiations before and after the strike lengthened the campaign's duration.
May
2007
to
February
2008
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
New York City, NY
Location Description: 
Protesters organized demonstrations across the US, primarily centralized in the New York City and Los Angeles areas.
Goals: 
“(1) Fair initial compensation and residuals for writing for the Internet and other non-traditional media, (2) Increased initial compensation in all areas, (3) Increased minimums and residuals for The CW Television Network, (4) Increased DVD and videocassette residual payments, (5) Expanded WGA coverage of reality programs and animation, (6) Address product integration.”

(From WGA's Pattern of Demands published in an 18 May 2007 press release)

 

In the early 2000s, as technological advancements expanded media
sources, media writers faced challenges receiving compensation for their
work that producers redistributed online and through television reruns.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA), comprised of the Writers Guild of
America, West (WGAW) and the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE)
represented the interests of over 12,000 “writers in the motion picture,
broadcast, cable, and new media industries in both entertainment and
news.” On 18 May 2007, the WGA released a “Pattern of Demands” to the
Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This began a
campaign demanding fair compensation from producers who reproduced
writers’ work using new forms of media. The WGA hoped to address this
issue at their upcoming negotiations to discuss changes to the guilds’
Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) with the AMPTP.

Of the 3,176 guild members who participated in the vote for the Pattern
of Demands, 95.7 percent, a total of 3,040 writers, voted to approve the
package. This was a 32 percent increase in member participation up from
WGA’s AMPTP negotiation preparations in 2004. The WGAW and the WGAE
worked together for a year to reach out to members and prepare the 2007
Pattern of Demands. The 2007 Pattern of Demands package focused on
issues of initial compensation, residual compensation, jurisdiction,
pension plans and health funds, and professional standards and
protections in the employment of writers (the full Pattern of Demands
can be found here:
http://www.wga.org/contract_07/pod07.pdf" title="https://web.archive.org/web/20150505194138/http://www.wga.org/contract_07/pod07.pdf">https://web.archive.org/web/20150505194138/http://www.wga.org/contract_0...).

During the negotiation, WGA was most concerned with addressing the
issues surrounding writing for new media, including residual formulas
for compensating writers for the reuse of their work online, terms for
writing new material for emerging media platforms, and the expansion of
the WGA jurisdiction to represent writers for game shows, animation,
reality television, and other reality-based programming. The main points
of the Pattern of Demands published by the WGA in an 18 May 2007 press
release included: “(1) Fair initial compensation and residuals for
writing for the Internet and other non-traditional media, (2) Increased
initial compensation in all areas, (3) Increased minimums and residuals
for The CW Television Network, (4) Increased DVD and videocassette
residual payments, (5) Expanded WGA coverage of reality programs and
animation, (6) Address product integration.”

The 18 May 2007 press release listed twenty-three WGA members and WGAW
and WGAE officers on the WGA Negotiating Committee responsible for
leading the negotiations of AMPTP and the creation of the Patterns of
Demands.

On 16 July 2007, the the WGA Negotiation Committee began meeting with
the AMPTP to negotiate their MBA. The negotiations lasted until 31
October 2007 when the WGA’s current MBA with the AMPTP expired and the
groups had not reached an agreement for a renewed contract. WGA conceded
their demand to double the amount writers were paid for DVD sales on
the last day of negotiations in hopes of reaching a compromise, but the
WGA remained dissatisfied with AMPTP’s proposal for writers’ Internet
residuals. In an interview with the Cable News Network (CNN), AMPTP
President Nick Counter expressed dissatisfaction with WGA’s decision to
stop negotiations and strike after the expiration of their current MBA
instead of choosing to “stop the clock” and continue the talks. The
agreement expired on Wednesday 13 October, and the talks continued
through the weekend until the strike began on Monday. In anticipation of
the strike, WGA leaders organized strike captain orientations for the
WGA members who would be supervising picketing teams during the strike.

WGA announced the beginning of the strike at 12:01am Pacific Time on 5
November 2007. On the morning of 5 November 2007, hundreds of WGA
members picketed outside of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
studios at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. They carried signs and
shouted messages against the current practices of production companies’
compensation for writers. The New York protesters carried signs that
read “Pencils Down” and “On Strike,” and they tethered a giant
inflatable rat to railings along the street. A group of 75 writers in
front of NBC, including Tina Fey, the creator of NBC’s “30 Rock,”
chanted, “No money? No downloads. No downloads? No peace.” Other WGA
picketers marched outside of dozens of different studio and production
sites across the city in four-hour shifts.

WGA writers also led demonstrations in other parts of the country. In
Burbank, California dozens of writers picketed outside of the local NBC
studios. Sixty WGA members picketed at the main gate of Walt Disney
studios, also in Burbank, California. At this site, when the strike
captain shouted “Union!” writers responded with “Power!” In Hollywood,
California writers marched, carried signs, and shouted outside of
Paramount Pictures.

Mainstream media outlets on television, online, and in print heavily
publicized the Writers Strike, particularly in terms of addressing which
shows would be able to continue, which shows would go to reruns
immediately, and which shows would go to reruns in a few weeks.

One problem that the WGA Writers Strike faced was the varying income
levels of the writers on strike, because it was more of a financial
burden for some writers than for others. The WGAW, with a member
unemployment rate of 48 percent, offered loans to active striking
members. Many comedy show writers, like Jay Lenno, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy
Kimmel, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert, ended their strike before WGA
negotiations had been resolved, so that their non-writer staff would not
continue to be laid off by the studio.

Thousands of WGAW writers staged a rally at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on
21 November 2007. The protesters followed three Teamster trucks on which
Alicia Keys performed two songs while they walked a mile on North
Hollywood Boulevard to Mann’s Chinese theater. Organizers chose this
location, because it was near the Knickerbocker Hotel on Ivar Avenue
where the union had first formed 75 years before. Picketers’ signs at
the rally read “On Strike”and “Solidarity with Writers.” On 26 November
2007, the WGA resumed negotiations with the AMPTP, but these broke down
by 8 December 2007. Informal talks between the WGA and the AMPTP resumed
in January.

During the early weeks of January, the WGA negotiated interim agreements
with independent media companies. On 22 January 2008, the WGA organized
another rally, this time at Paramount Pictures studios. Strike captains
called this the MLK March in reference to Martin Luther King Jr’s
support of workers’ rights in addition to civil rights. The marchers
marched in a circle around the studios campus and carried banners with
quotes by Dr. King. Marchers also brought musical instruments to support
a festive tone at the demonstration. National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People members attended this demonstration in
support of the strike.

On 12 February 2008, WGAW President Patrick Verrone announced the end of
the strike at its 100-day mark. Of the 3,775 WGA writers who voted,
92.5 percent were in favor of ending the strike. Verrone said that the
WGA achieved two of its three main goals of the negotiations; material
written for new media by WGA members would be covered by their contracts
with production studios and production studios base payment for
material reuse on a gross formula for residuals. WGA’s goals relating to
payment for animation and reality television were not met by
negotiations with the AMPTP. On 26 February 2007, the WGA officially
approved (93.6 percent of 4,060 voters) their new contract with the
AMPTP, which would last until 1 May 2011. It is estimated that the
Writers Strike cost LA economy over $3 billion.

Research Notes
Influences: 

not known

Sources: 
Anon. 2007. “Get Ready for Reruns: Writers Hit the Picket Lines.” CNN, November 5. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325191944/http://edition.cnn.com/2007/showbiz/tv/11/05/writers.strike/).

Anon. 2007. “Strike Fund Assistance to WGAW Members.” Writers Guild of America, West, November 12. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20080102204148/http://www.wga.org/contract_07/strikefund.pdf).

Anon. 2008. “Strike Over, Hollywood Writers Head Back to Work.” CNN, February 13. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325195911/http://edition.cnn.com/2008/showbiz/tv/02/13/writers.strike/index.html?iref=newssearch).

Barnes, Brooks. 2007. “Writers on the Picket Line Would Feel a Varying Pinch.” The New York Times, November 5. Retrieved March 25, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325192555/http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/05/business/media/05writers.html?ref=media&_r=1&).

Barnes, Brooks. 2007. “Strike News: Thousands Attend Hollywood Rally.” The New York Times, November 21. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20140105234623/http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/21/strike-news-thousands-attend-hollywood-rally/).

Bowman, John F. 2007. “Writers Guild of America Contract 2007.” Writers Guild of America, West. Retrieved March 22, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325051000/http://www.wga.org/contract_07/pod07.pdf).

Carr, David. 2008. “Who Won the Writers Strike?.” The New York Times, February 12. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325201015/http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/arts/television/12strike.html).

Cieply, Michael, David Carr, and Brooks Barnes. 2007. “Screenwriters on Strike Over Stake in New Media.” The New York Times, November 6. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325202359/http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/06/business/media/06strike.html?pagewanted=all).

Cieply, Michael. 2008. “With Informal Talks Set To Begin, Guild Plans Mass Picket at Paramount.” The New York Times, January 21. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20140105225553/http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/01/21/guild-plans-mass-picket-at-paramount/).

Cieply, Michael. 2007. “Writers Begin Strike as Talks Break Off.” The New York Times, November 5. Retrieved March 22, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325202127/http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/05/business/media/05strike.html).

Cieply, Michael. 2008. “Writers Vote to End Strike.” The New York Times, February 12. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325195706/http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/business/media/12cnd-strike.html?hp).

CNN Library. 2015. “Writers Guild of America Fast Facts.” CNN, February 8. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325201403/http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/26/us/writers-guild-of-america-fast-facts/).

Eller, Claudia and Richard Verrier. 2008. “Hollywood Writers Strike Ends.” LA Times, February 13. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325201151/http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fi-strike13feb13-story.html).

G Mitchell S Goldman. 2007. “Writers Guilds Approve Pattern of Demands for Contract 2007 Negotiations.” Writers Guild of America, West, June 18. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325051608/http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=2385).

G Mitchell S Goldman. 2007. “Writers Guilds Issue Pattern of Demands for Contract 2007 Negotiations” edited by G. Mitchell and S. Goldman. Writers Guild of America, West, May 18. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325191348/http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=2370).

G Mitchell S Goldman. 2008. “Writers Guild Members Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract.” Writers Guild of America, West, February 26. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20101224162307/http://wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=2780).

G Mitchell S Goldman. 2008. “Writers Guild Members Vote to End Strike.” Writers Guild of America, West, February 12. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150209002717/http://www.wga.org/subpage_newsevents.aspx?id=2775).

Rice, Lynette. 2007. “Writers Shut Down Hollywood Boulevard.” Entertainment Weekly, November 21. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20150325193327/http://www.ew.com/article/2007/11/21/writers-union-w).

Stelter, Brian. 2007. “Leno and O’Brien Explain Decisions To Return January 2.” The New York Times, December 17. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://web.archive.org/web/20140105223837/http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/leno-and-obrien-explain-decisions-to-return-january-2/).

The New York Times. 2008. “The 100-Day Writers’ Strike: A Timeline.” The New York Times, February 12. Retrieved March 24, 2015 (http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/12/the-100-day-writers-strike-a-timeline/?_r=0).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Erica Janko 24/03/2015