Hollywood film and TV writers voted overwhelmingly to approve a new three-year contract with the major entertainment studios, the Writers Guild of America said on Monday, formally bringing to a close a bitter five-month labor dispute.
During the one-week voting period, more than 8,500 writers submitted ballots, and the contract was ratified with 99 percent of the vote, according to the Writers Guild, which represents more than 11,000 screenwriters.
“Together we were able to accomplish what many said was impossible only six months ago,” said Meredith Stiehm, the president of the Writers Guild’s western branch, in an email to members.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which bargains on behalf of the major studios, congratulated the union in a statement, adding, “It is important progress for our industry that writers are back to work.”
Ratification had widely been expected and the practical effects from the vote will be fairly minimal. Writers Guild board members had already unanimously voted to approve the agreement and the 148-day screenwriter strike — one of the longest in the union’s history — ended on Sept. 27.
Picketing was quickly suspended, and writers have returned to work. Productions that do not need the services of striking actors — most notably talk shows, including “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” — have already started airing new episodes. Productions of scripted movies and TV shows remain paused.
During the screenwriter voting period, all attention in the entertainment industry has been focused on the negotiations between studios and SAG-AFTRA, the union representing tens of thousands of striking actors. The two sides began bargaining on Oct. 2, and were scheduled for another session on Monday. The meetings are the first formal sit-downs between the sides since the actors went on strike on July 14.
Like their counterparts in the screenwriters guild, leaders of the actors’ union have called this moment “existential.” They are seeking wage increases, as well as protections around the use of artificial intelligence. The last time the two unions were on strike at the same time was 63 years ago.
The strikes brought Hollywood to a standstill and the financial fallout has been significant. Beyond the writers and the actors, more than 100,000 behind-the-scenes workers were out of a job for months. The California economy has lost an estimated $5 billion. The stock prices of the major studios have dropped. With movie releases being delayed until 2024, the box office has taken a hit.
There is widespread optimism in the entertainment industry that a deal between the actors and the studios could be reached soon. Once the actors’ strike is resolved, thousands of entertainment workers — including drivers, makeup artists, florists and set builders — will be able to return to work.
Top entertainment executives — including the Walt Disney Company chief executive, Robert A. Iger; a Netflix co-chief executive, Ted Sarandos; the Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive, David Zaslav; and the NBCUniversal Studio Group chairman, Donna Langley — have participated in the bargaining sessions with SAG-AFTRA, much like they did in the final rounds of negotiations with the writers.
Since the Writers Guild reached a tentative agreement with the studios on Sept. 24, there was little doubt that it would be approved by rank-and-file members. Recent informational membership meetings to discuss the prospective contract had turned into impromptu celebrations, featuring lengthy standing ovations for the union officials who negotiated the new contract.
The ratification results exceeded the margin the last time the writers were on strike. In 2008, 93.6 percent of 4,060 screenwriters voted to ratify that contract.