A new writers' strike has started, essentially grinding most of Hollywood to a halt in the process. But what does it all mean – and what does it mean for you? To help give you a clearer picture on what could be an industry-defining period, we’ve put together a quick guide on the 2023 WGA strike.
Below, we’ve laid out all the essential details on the strike, which began on May 2. That includes why the WGA voted to go on strike, what they’re demanding, and when the strike could end.
Yes, it may seem like many of your favorite movies and series are in danger of going on hiatus, but this is a dispute that could have further repercussions than shutting down products. So read on as we cover all bases, painting a clearer picture as to why negotiations have hit a roadblock – and what happened the last time writers went on strike.
What is the WGA writers' strike?
The Writers Guild of America is a union that represents writers in film, television, radio, and online media. There are two branches, East and West, which operate separately out of New York City and Los Angeles, but they negotiate contracts and launch strike action together.
The WGA started their latest strike on May 2, 2023, their first industrial action since 2007. Union members are striking now after the guild failed to negotiate a new contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood studios, after their previous deal expired on May 1.
The main reason for the strike is unsatisfactory pay – median screenwriter pay hasn't risen since 2018 and, if we're accounting for inflation, it's actually fallen by 14%, while median weekly pay for writer-producers has declined by 23% over the last decade when adjusting for inflation. WGA members also have demands for regulations for the "use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies."
What does the writers' strike mean for viewers?
Well, it means that a lot of your favorite TV shows are about to be disrupted. Striking members of the WGA cannot write, sell, or option material, which means no new scripts will be written while the strike is ongoing.
Additionally, strikers can't discuss their work with studios or revise scripts that have already been written. This means that shows that continue to shoot through the strike period will not have anyone on hand to deal with the rewrites and reshoots that often occur on set.
Which TV shows have been affected by the strike (so far)?
Production shut down
- Jimmy Kimmel Live
- The Late Show, Night
- Late Nigh
- Saturday Night Live
- The Talk
- Real Time with Bill Maher
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
- The Daily Show
Writers' rooms shut down
- Yellowjackets season 3
- Abbott Elementary season 3
- Big Mouth season 8
- Cobra Kai season 6
Production continuing without on-set writers
What happened during the last writers' strike?
The last major writers' strike occurred between 2007-2008. Beginning in November 2007, all 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America, East and Writers Guild of America, West went on strike for 100 days. Issues such as DVD residuals, use of online content, and writing for ‘new media’ (e.g. streaming) led to the initial breakdown in contract negotiations, with a new agreement eventually voted for on February 12, 2008.
The period between November 2007 and February 2008, however, left the film and television industries in disarray. Perhaps most infamous of all is Quantum of Solace, the James Bond sequel to Casino Royale which is largely accepted to have been hamstrung by not having a finished script.
"We had the bare bones of a script and then there was a writers’ strike and there was nothing we could do," Bond actor Daniel Craig told Time Out magazine (H/T IndieWire). "We couldn't employ a writer to finish it."
Other shows and movies were affected, most notably the critically panned second season of Heroes, a wheel-spinning year of Lost, and an out-of-place Friday Night Lights season. In total, over 50 shows were forced into shorter seasons, and multiple more were put on hiatus.
How (and when) could it be resolved?
As with all impasses, it likely depends on the two parties – WGA and the studios – reaching a compromise.
The WGA stance is clear: better compensation, higher residuals, and staff writer rooms with consistent work for episodic television are all high priorities for the union. For more granular detail of exactly what the WGA is demanding, union member and stand-up comic Adam Conover revealed the full list of WGA proposals – including counter-offers from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
There is no time limit on when the strike will end. It could be days, weeks, or months before an agreement is reached. In terms of pure numbers, WGA estimates their proposals would net writers "approximately $429 million a year," with the counter-offers totaling $86 million. While this is just speculation, a number far closer to WGA’s figure would likely see a possible end to the strike – but it’s unclear if WGA will push for all of its proposals to be met in full.
While we wait for more news on the WGA strikes, check out our guide to all the best Netflix shows and the best shows on Disney Plus.