'It Feels Like a War Ended': Elated Writers Exhale As Strike Poised to End
➕ What happens next — one strike down, one more to go
Chet Kazalski was in his car fulfilling Instacart orders when he heard the news. The pre-WGA writer and background actor has been working Instacart gigs since he moved to L.A. — and had to ramp it up when the strike started and production work dried up. So when the Writers Guild of America sent an update to members that it had tentatively agreed to a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the emotions flooded in.
“I didn't know whether or not to cry or dance,” he said. “I was so in a state of awe and happiness.”
Kazalski, alongside several hundred other writers, had taken over the North Hollywood bar Idle Hour on Sunday night in spontaneous celebration. Occasional cheers arose from the crowd as the realization set in again and again that the writers strike was ending — tentatively, of course, until all the contract language gets hammered out. While the contents of the agreement are for now a mystery, the Guild’s touting of an “exceptional” deal had given its 11,500 members good reason to order a round of drinks.
“It feels like a war ended,” said writer Albert Wang.
As recently as earlier that day, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writer and Television City strike captain Bill Wolkoff had been leading a picket outside Dancing With The Stars. He called the 146-day strike “a historic labor action that is bringing transformative change to entertainment and is a beacon of labor standing up to management for the entire country.”
Celebrations dotted the town Sunday night, from Silverlake to Culver City. Over at Neat bar on Pico Blvd on the Westside, a less rowdy fete was in progress; about 60 writers turning out to toast the news.
Outside of weekends, Only Murders in the Building scribe and Fox lot coordinator Ben Smith has missed maybe only 15 picketable days over the last four-and-a-half months, when he was traveling and fell ill. He has seen more picket action than most. Ruminating on what the last 146 days have meant to him, he said, “I feel an incredible closeness with fellow writers, with the fellow actors, directors, crew members, who I think over this process — we’ve all realized how much we share with each other and how much these issues affect each other. And I feel a great fondness and gratitude towards everyone. I feel rather transformed by this whole thing and my relationship with the rest of labor here in Hollywood.”
With one strike down, there is, however, still one more to go before production can fully resume and the industry can get back into business — and on Monday evening, SAG-AFTRA members voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike against the video game industry while the guild continues to negotiate a new Interactive Media Agreement, complicating things further. Following guild authorization, writers rooms will be able to reopen, but actors won’t step return to sets until the studios reopen negotiations and hammer out a new contract.
In the meantime, the WGA has encouraged its members to continue to support SAG-AFTRA on the picket lines.
“I heard through the grapevine that the ‘WGA Supports SAG’ signs have already been ordered,” said writer David Steinberg. “And they're gonna be available on Tuesday. So we're gonna be there.”
With an IATSE contract also coming due in 2024, writers are looking to return the favor to their union brethren with a show of solidarity.
“We will continue to show up on the picket lines,” added comedian Jenny Yang, who is a dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA member. “Yeah, get some rest, but also show up for the other labor unions that are going to need our help moving forward. Because I feel like this might have been the first time that a lot of writers had a taste of what union solidarity and collective action was like… It behooves us as WGA members to also support strong contracts for IATSE so that management can no longer pit us against each other. So to me, I feel like this is all a sort of next phase — I hope that we can capture this energy moving forward.”
Supergirl and Jessica Jones writer J. Holtham echoed the sentiment.
“We want to support them — if we have a good deal, they should have a better fucking deal,” he said. “Everyone should be building on top of each other and building us all up. So I will absolutely be out in the streets on Tuesday.”
Today in Strike News
Some late-night producers are reportedly already emailing staffers about returning to work as soon as Tuesday, as talk series prepare to go back on the air in the coming weeks. “I think everybody’s leaning forward, like they’re ready to go…. I would look for them to return on October 2 or October 9,” said one late-night insider. “I think that they are going to be very motivated to get their crews working again.” (Variety)
In the immediate aftermath of the tentative agreement, movie theater and studio stocks rose. “An announced deal ends the 5-month long Writers’ strike, pending an affirmative union member vote,” AMC CEO Adam Aron, whose company’s stock grew over 7% today, tweeted. “Directors and Writers contracts now behind us. Only the Screen Actors Guild left to go. The world’s movie theatres can celebrate. Extremely good news that progress is being made.” (MarketWatch)
California Gov. Gavin Newson and L.A. Mayor Karen Bass both applauded the end of the writers strike: “California’s entertainment industry would not be what it is today without our world class writers,” Newsom said. “For over 100 days, 11,000 writers went on strike over existential threats to their careers and livelihoods — expressing real concerns over the stress and anxiety workers are feeling. I am grateful that the two sides have come together to reach an agreement that benefits all parties involved, and can put a major piece of California’s economy back to work.” Added Bass in her own statement: “After a nearly five-month long strike, I am grateful that the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have reached a fair agreement and I’m hopeful that the same can happen soon with the Screen Actors Guild.” (Politico)
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden also celebrated the culmination of the strike in a statement of his own. “I applaud the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers for reaching a tentative agreement that will allow writers to return to the important work of telling the stories of our nation, our world — and of all of us,” he said. “This agreement, including assurances related to artificial intelligence, did not come easily. But its formation is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. There simply is no substitute for employers and employees coming together to negotiate in good faith toward an agreement that makes a business stronger and secures the pay, benefits and dignity that workers deserve. I urge all employers to remember that all workers — including writers, actors and autoworkers — deserve a fair share of the value their labor helped create.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
Internationally, many groups commended the writers’ deal, including the Writers Guild of Great Britain, which gave credit to its own members for their solidarity during the strike. “We send our congratulations to our sister union in the States on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP,” WGGB chair Lisa Holdsworth said in a statement. “In the past 146 days we’ve seen an extraordinary show of solidarity from writers and their union siblings on both sides of the Atlantic, and indeed around the world. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response of our own membership in standing with their striking colleagues overseas — you have followed the WGA strike rules to the letter, turned out to the WGGB protest in London in the summer and sent a tsunami of support on social media. Some of you have even joined picket lines in the States. Your solidarity has counted and your voice has been heard, both by the Writers Guild of America and their members but also by the streamers, studios and producers who have witnessed this global display of collective action and have — finally — listened.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
As the writers strike wraps up, a large swath of new projects are likely to be announced. Already, talks about a reboot of The Office, with original U.S. series creator Greg Daniels at the helm, have been revealed. (Puck)
Additional reporting for Today in Strike News by Matthew Frank.
Disclosure: Elaine Low is an inactive member of SAG-AFTRA.