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Hollywood writers hold strike vote Tuesday

<i>Lucy Nicholson/Reuters</i><br/>The Writers Guild of America is set to hold a strike authorization vote on Tuesday.
Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
The Writers Guild of America is set to hold a strike authorization vote on Tuesday.

By Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN

The Writers Guild of America is set to hold a strike authorization vote on Tuesday. If it passes, which it is expected to, that will allow leadership to call a strike if the Guild and the Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers do not reach a new contract agreement by May 1.

“The studios need to respond to the crisis writers face,” WGA leadership said in a message to members ahead of the vote. “WGA members must demonstrate our willingness to fight for the contract writers need and deserve by supporting a strike authorization vote.”

The two sides have met a few times since negotiations began March 20. The WGA is calling for additional compensation and residuals from features in theaters or on streaming platforms, an end to the abuse of “mini-rooms” (smaller number of writers in the room) and increasing contributions to pension and health funds.

Voting opens Tuesday at 8:30 pm local time on both the the west and east coasts and closes on Monday, April 17, at 12 pm local time, with vote results to follow.

“Studios have been getting away with murder and they know it. I think that the money is still there,” said Ashley Lyle, WGA member and a writer on the Showtime show Yellowjackets, in a video message to members.

But the AMPTP, which represents studios and streamers, said the entertainment industry has changed in recent years and writers need to make concessions.

“The AMPTP companies approach this negotiation and the ones to follow with the long-term health and stability of the industry as our priority,” AMPTP said shortly before negotiations began. “We are all partners in charting the future of our business together and fully committed to reaching a mutually beneficial deal with each of our bargaining partners. The goal is to keep production active so that all of us can continue working and continue to deliver to consumers the best entertainment product available in the world.”

AMPTP represents Amazon, Apple, CBS, Disney, NBCU, Netflix, Paramount Global, Sony, and CNN’s parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery.

WGA said its writers are unfairly compensated as streaming popularity — and its share of Hollywood’s revenue — grows.

“The business has transitioned to a streaming-first model, with the legacy film and television markets representing a declining share of total revenue,” WGA wrote in the report.

The survival of the writers’ profession is at stake, as companies “slashed compensation,” WGA said in the message to members. The media industry is struggling as advertising revenue has evaporated over the past year, and companies have announced mass layoffs.

The WGA announced a two-week break in negotiations starting April 1. But, according to an industry insider close to the negotiations, WGA and AMPTP met last Wednesday for the most engaging session yet. Neither side has made any counter offers to the opening proposals, the person with knowledge of the matter said. Negotiations are slated to pick up again the week of April 17.

The last writers’ strike was in 2007 and lasted 100 days, bringing Hollywood production to a screeching halt.

“Three weeks is plenty of time to hammer out a deal, negotiations in 2017 went right down to the wire,” the industry insider says of the looming May 1 deadline.

The WGA-AMPTP negotiation is the first of three contract negotiations with entertainment unions. The Directors Guild of America will start negotiations on May 10 ahead of their contract expiration on June 30. The Screen Actors Guild contract also expires June 30.

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