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WGA picket lines are filled with cautious optimism on the third day of CEO talks


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WGA picket lines swelled on the West Coast Friday in response to union leaders’ call for strong participation in the streets as labor-management negotiators gathered for a third straight day of talks aimed at ending a strike that has been ongoing for more than four months.

In Hollywood, Netflix and Paramount saw large crowds from WGA and SAG-AFTRA pickets gathered by 9 a.m. The past week has been full of rumors spread on social media, online private channels and text channels that a deal is imminent. In West Los Angeles, a typically large crowd made the rounds outside Fox studios.

Many WGA veterans urged caution about getting too high hopes for what might come out of the AMPTP negotiating room later today, after a third day of labor-management talks involving four CEOs.

“I’m a realist,” said Amy Berg, a series director and WGA team leader who calls herself “Lot Mom” at Fox Studios. “You want it to be done. But at the same time, we’ve been through this before. A few weeks ago everyone heard on Friday that the strike had suddenly ended, and that wasn’t the case.

As a former member of the negotiating committee, Berg also noted that the contract negotiation process is a tedious process that does not move quickly and can be difficult to navigate under pressure. Simply put, if the deal is not right, Berg feels there is a strong will among members to stay out if necessary.

“Even if we agree on any big points, there’s a lot of language to work through. We have to negotiate the contract language, especially in this strike, to get the protection we need,” she said. “So I’m open to staying here longer if That means everyone will be protected.

Billy Ray, a screenwriter who hosted Deadline’s “Strike Talk” podcast shortly after the work stoppage began on May 2, stressed that studios should not rely on starving writers through a long strike.

“I think one of the things that companies have miscalculated is that life was very difficult for writers and actors before the strikes, and that a strike is not a big step down,” Ray said. diverse While making the rounds outside of Fox. “I think the will to do this for several months is there.”

Ray acknowledged that writers’ opinions on strike action and union tactics can vary widely, but what he has found consistent during Labor Action Now on Day 144 is an understanding that the fight being waged by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA is part of a larger labor action. Movement in the United States

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“People are now thinking about where do these strikes now in a larger conversation about the privatization of America, the power of the workforce, the value of the individual? These are eternal issues,” Ray said. “Such a moment to stand up and fight. “Everyone here has a feeling for it.”

Other writers on the line Friday expressed a range of emotions, from extreme skepticism to anger at the studios for the duration of the strike and the hope that both sides would reach the finish line.

“I feel very hopeful, but I’m also anxiously awaiting word from leadership, because I know there are a number of strategies that can be used to increase optimism to try to pressure a deal,” WGA member Eleanor Morrison said. (“vice president”). “I try to keep that in mind as I approach the atmosphere today.”

By 10:30 a.m., the crowd of protesters outside Paramount had grown to roughly the same numbers as the first day of the WGA strike, which began on May 2. The mood was upbeat and cheerful – helped by the sheer coincidence, “Puppet Day” on the line, where many picketers marched using hand puppets or intricate puppets – as union members struck a tone of cautious optimism.

Peter Morita (“Wizards of Waverly Place”), who was a strike leader during the 2007-2008 WGA strike and served on the 2000 bargaining committee, echoed those sentiments. “When I read reports that say things are going this way or that way, I feel like it might be coming from the other side of the negotiations,” he said. “So I’m taking it all with a grain of salt. I’m very excited and ready to keep going.”

For Jimmy Denbo (“Grey’s Anatomy”), the most important deal points were AI protections and data transparency that allows for success-based spinoffs. “They are the most existential threat to businesses and society as a whole,” she said. “And if this action should be an example of why this is important, so be it. I’m here to fight those battles.” As for one of the biggest sticking points, the book’s minimal space, Denbo is frank.

“I work in a really big room, because it’s an old model that worked and still works, so I’m an example of that,” she said. “But I also respect creators who have one voice. I always think it should be a choice. They have the damn money, so give us the bare minimum of space, and whether or not you want to use all these writers should be up to the creators.”

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Denbo remained optimistic that the two sides would reach an agreement — even if the underlying issues that have fueled labor actions across many business sectors remain unresolved.

“This entire battle is a symbol of the evils of capitalism and privatization without barriers,” she said. “Do I think we’ll be able to get a spinoff that will keep this business together a little longer? Yes. Eventually we will. Because people still want ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. And they should, because it’s still good.” “And I’m writing on it. And I’m involved in the EP — put that out there. But I don’t think this fight will necessarily be over for a long time.”

At Netflix, writer Jane Anderson spoke for many veteran members when she emphasized that for her, the strike is about securing a strong future for young writers. The blow was not as harsh on her as it was on the younger and less experienced scribes.

“Morale is very high,” Anderson said, noting that the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike in mid-July was a boost of energy that helped the writers get through the past two months. “There was a big slump in July when it got really hot, and everyone was slowing down,” she noted.

“I’m not struggling because I became a writer decades ago when I could get a big paycheck. I’m really doing this for young writers. I want them to be able to buy a house and provide for their families,” Anderson said.

Michael Cobian (“Power: Book IV”), who also appears on Netflix, was willing to express some hope but was full of caution.

“It feels good about it [negotiators] “We can talk back and forth, and it gives us hope,” Cobian said. “But obviously just because we’re talking doesn’t mean the things we’re asking for in the next decade are going to happen yet. I’m taking it day by day, just trying to get the work done and stay positive.

Travis Adam Wright is also encouraged to see the studio’s top leaders involved – Disney’s Bob Iger, Warner Bros. Discovery’s David Zaslav, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, and NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley.

“It created a lot of positive buzz,” Wright said during a sit-in outside Netflix. “What I’m always afraid of is that they just take a position and say: ‘Well, we offered them better terms but they turned us down and we were very reasonable.’ The idea of ​​making it seem like the writers are greedy or the actors are greedy, it’s ridiculous to think we’re asking too much.

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Adam Penick, another WGA soldier outside of Netflix, stressed that the underlying issues that led to the strike in May have not gone away and need to be resolved. As a mid-career writer, Benitch said he feels hampered in his ability to advance due to changes in the nature of writers’ rooms and TV series hiring in recent years.

“Small rooms and minimal staff are a big problem for me,” Benic said. “We need a minimum pathway for people like me from mid-to-lower level to be able to graduate, otherwise they will just hire a couple of models and no one else.”

At the same time, he added: “I am happy that the CEOs are participating, as they should be. It should have happened sooner, but better late than never.”

Peter Hankoff, a screenwriter and documentary filmmaker who has been a regular presence outside of Fox, said he feels the pressure from the near-historic duration of the WGA strike is affecting studios and broadcast companies more than union members. The longest work stoppage in WGA history was a 154-day strike that extended from early March to early August in 1988.

“I don’t think the AMPTP wants the longest strike on record to be on their backs. I think they will want to end this strike before the 153rd. Because even though it is a Pyrrhic victory, if they allow the strike to continue for more than 153 days, they will be setting a precedent for the longest strike In history. “They also set a precedent for the next strike to be longer,” Hankov said. “If I were [AMPTP president] Carole Lombardini, I want to get this done. “We are their business partners, not their opponents, and people forget that.”

Hankoff firmly believes that writers retain enormous influence because they are uniquely skilled workers. “AMPTP people have the ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But only writers have the ability to say the words that fall between ‘Fade in’ and ‘Fade out.’”

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