Day 102: Striking writers resume negotiations with Hollywood studios Friday

The Writers Guild of America will resume contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers Friday, the first official negotiating session since the union went on strike May 2.

In an email to its members, the WGA negotiating committee wrote that it was asked by AMPTP President Carol Lombardini to meet with AMPTP negotiators on Friday.

"We expect the AMPTP to provide responses to WGA proposals," according to the message sent to WGA members. "Our committee returns to the bargaining table ready to make a fair deal, knowing the unified WGA membership stands behind us and buoyed by the ongoing support of our union allies."

There was no official statement from the AMPTP regarding a resumption of labor talks.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Producers asking writers to meet again for negotiations

On Wednesday, the WGA marked the 100th day of its strike -- matching the duration of the union's last walkout in 2007-08.

Last Friday, WGA leaders met with AMPTP leadership to discuss a possible resumption of talks. According to the WGA, that discussion showed the two sides remain far apart on several key issues, including success-based residuals for streaming content.

In a message to WGA members late week, negotiators said the studios appear willing to increase some compensation levels and are at least "willing to talk" about the use of artificial intelligence.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass told KNX News on Wednesday that she has met with WGA officials and is "keeping in constant communication with everyone" in regards to the labor stalemate, although she would not elaborate on those efforts, citing a desire to keep the talks confidential.

But she seemed to express some optimism, saying she thinks a resolution can be reached.

"I don't believe it (the strike) will go another hundred days. I do not," Bass told KNX. "It really cannot go another hundred days. You think about the entertainment industry and the rippling effect in our economy. There are obviously the people that are members of the WGA, or members of SAG-AFTRA, but there are thousands of ancillary businesses that are all impacted."

The last WGA strike, which lasted from November 2007 to February 2008, was estimated to have cost the local economy between $2 billion and $3 billion.

The impact of the current walkout is expected to be far worse, with the WGA now joined by actors on the picket lines for the first double-barreled strike to hit Hollywood in 63 years. The SAG-AFTRA actors union went on strike July 14.

Last Thursday, the WGA negotiating committee sent an email to its members challenging studios to abandon an "anti-union playbook" and offer writers a fair deal. The studios shot back, calling the union rhetoric "unfortunate," insisting its "only playbook is getting people back to work."

The WGA negotiating committee praised writers' resolve and blasted suggestions the walkout was having limited impact on studios due to content stockpiles held by streaming services, and that a protracted strike might be "good for the companies financially" because they can "write off their losses."

"This is calculated disinformation about the real impact of the ongoing strikes," according to the WGA statement.

The negotiating committee warned the AMPTP not to repeat tactics of the 2007-08 writers strike, which the union contends was an effort to "spread dissent" through the media.

"We won't prejudge what's to come. But playbooks die hard," according to the WGA statement. "So far, the companies have wasted months on their same failed strategy. They have attempted, time and time again, through anonymous quotes in the media, to use scare tactics, rumors and lies to weaken our resolve."

The AMPTP issued a statement in response, saying last Friday's discussion with the WGA was to "determine whether we have a willing bargaining partner. The WGA bargaining committee's rhetoric is unfortunate."

"This strike has hurt thousands of people in this industry, and we take that very seriously," according to the AMPTP. "Our only playbook is getting people back to work."

The WGA is pushing for improvements on a variety of fronts, notably for higher residual pay for streaming programs that have larger viewership, rather than the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show's success.

The union is also calling for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show, increases in foreign streaming residuals and regulations preventing the use of artificial intelligence technology to write or rewrite any literary material.

The AMPTP has pushed back against some of the WGA's demands, particularly around its calls for mandatory staffing and employment guarantees on programs. AMPTP has also pushed back against WGA demands around streaming residuals, saying the guild's offer would increase rates by 200%.

The use of artificial intelligence has emerged as a major topic. The WGA says it wants a ban on the use of AI, and contends the AMPTP has refused to even negotiate the issue. The AMPTP said the issue raises "important creative and legal questions" and requires "a lot more discussion, which we've committed to doing."