Late-night shows are expected to go dark after Hollywood’s television and movie writers declared late Monday that they will launch a strike for the first time in 15 years.
The board of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted unanimously to call a strike effective 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the union said in a statement.
The union was unable to reach a last-minute accord with the major studios on a new three-year contract to replace one that expired Monday night.
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the WGA said in a statement.
“No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
The labor dispute could have a cascading effect on TV and film productions depending on how long the strike persists, the Associated Press (AP) reports. But a shutdown has been widely forecast for months due to the scope of the discord. The writers last month voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, with 98% of the membership in support.
At issue is how writers are compensated in an industry where streaming has changed the rules of Hollywood economics. Writers say they aren’t being paid enough, TV writer rooms have shrunk too much and the old calculus for how residuals are paid out needs to be redrawn.
Hollywood writers strike could be lengthy
“The survival of our profession is at stake,” the guild has said.
Streaming has exploded the number of series and films that are made annually, meaning more jobs for writers. But WGA members say they’re making much less money and working under more strained conditions.
When Hollywood writers have gone on strike, it’s often been lengthy, AP notes. In 1988, a WGA strike lasted 153 days. The last WGA strike went for 100 days, beginning in 2007 and ending in 2008.
The most immediate effect of the strike viewers are likely to notice will be on late-night shows and “Saturday Night Live.” All are expected to immediately go dark. During the 2007 strike, late-night hosts eventually returned to the air and improvised material. Jay Leno wrote his own monologues, a move that angered union leadership.
On Friday’s episode of “Late Night,” Seth Meyers, a WGA member who said he supported the union’s demands, prepared viewers for re-runs while lamenting the hardship a strike entails.
“It doesn’t just affect the writers, it affects all the incredible non-writing staff on these shows,” Meyers said.
“And it would really be a miserable thing for people to have to go through, especially considering we’re on the heels of that awful pandemic that affected, not just show business, but all of us.”
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