WGA Deal Is Done—But When Will Hollywood Be Back to Normal?

Mario Tama
Mario Tama

The Writers Guild of America halted its pickets Sunday thanks to a tentative agreement that could soon send striking screenwriters back to work. Late-night shows are already charting their return, Variety reports, pending guild leaders’ meeting Tuesday. But the end of the WGA’s strike does not mean that Hollywood’s labor fight is over; by all indications, it’s just getting started.

The WGA’s deal won’t quite mean a return to normal—nor should it. The actors union SAG-AFTRA is still on strike, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) which represents Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes crew and support staff, will see its own contract expire next summer. The question will now become whether the solidarity we’ve seen this summer lasts into the coming year (and possibly even beyond) as workers within the industry and outside it continue to fight for better protections and compensation.

But in the meantime, what comes next after this temporary deal?

On Tuesday, the WGA’s negotiating committee is set to vote on whether to advance the tentative agreement to WGA West and WGA East’s leadership for a vote. Pending approval from all three bodies, the guild said in a recent statement, it will provide members both a summary of the deal points and the Memorandum of Agreement before calling meetings where members can learn more about the deal. Then, the union’s members will cast their own vote.

According to the New York Times’ DealBook, the writers union “appears to have won more than analysts initially believed possible.” DealBook adds that shares in both Warner Bros. and Paramount Global saw their stocks rise in premarket trading Monday morning, after the tentative agreement’s announcement Sunday.

In its own statement, the WGA gave the pact a ringing endorsement. “We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional—with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”

The final source of tension between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) proved to be artificial intelligence, the New York Times reports—specifically, a guild concern regarding how studios might use AI in combination with old scripts they already own. On Saturday, lawyers for the AMPTP reportedly added “a couple paragraphs” that, after some tweaks on Sunday, passed muster.

Should WGA members vote to approve the deal and end their strike, late-night and daytime shows could be back on air relatively quickly; because they fall under a separate agreement from the one SAG-AFTRA is striking, their hosts could return to air without crossing a picket line. (Hosts like Drew Barrymore and Bill Maher, who faced backlash for their attempts to bring their shows back to air before the strike had been called, had run afoul of their unionized writing staff—not SAG-AFTRA.)

Drew Barrymore’s Co-Head Writer Speaks Out on Host’s Return

During past strikes, late-night hosts could sometimes find themselves squabbling to return to air before or at least alongside their competitors. (During the 2007 strike David Letterman famously secured the return of both Late Show and The Late Late Show by cutting an interim agreement with the WGA through his production company, Worldwide Pants.) This year, Variety reports, insiders say the shows will likely plan a simultaneous return—a move that further reflects the cooperative spirit driving efforts like Strike Force Five, a podcast hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, and Jimmy Fallon.

The main challenge for returning talk shows will likely come down to booking: Because SAG-AFTRA remains on strike, actors are still not available to promote any guild-covered projects.

One insider who spoke with Variety seemed bullish on that front. “If you look at all of the shows that have been continuing to run, like CBS Mornings or Live with Kelly and Mark or the Today show, the bookings are good,” the source said. “Oprah and Matthew McConaughey and the like are promoting things that have nothing to do with a SAG project.”

For now, however, the WGA has not yet reached an official deal. The union has asked that its members not return to work “until specifically authorized to by the Guild” as it remains on strike. While the guild has suspended its own studio protests, it’s encouraged available members to attend a SAG-AFTRA picket line instead.

Looking ahead, former WGA board member David Slack warned union members that they will soon “begin to face the final and most insidious form of unionbusting propaganda: a years-long effort to sell the lie that our strike was not worth it.”

“Over the coming days, months, and years, the studios, streamers, and their surrogates will take every opportunity to undermine what we have won together,” Slack wrote on X. He added that the studios might “seize on” concessions and compromises the union’s negotiating committee needed to make “as proof that we ‘failed.’”

The strike was necessary, Slack wrote, “because our employers made it necessary by driving our income down 23% in 10 years.” Beyond that, he emphasized, it’s now a victory: “If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, it’s ‘cause they never want to see us stand up for ourselves again.”

Sarah Silverman Sounds Off on Movie Stars Working During the Strike

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