Hollywood writers slam ‘milestone of shame’ as strike hits 100 days

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood writers marked the 100th day of their industry-crippling strike Wednesday, dubbing the occasion a “milestone of shame” for studios as the two sides remain deadlocked.  Since early May, the Writers Guild of America walkout has brought countless film shoots and productions to a halt, costing the California economy millions of dollars each day, but the two sides have barely spoken. The chaos wrought on the entertainment industry only deepened last month, when writers were joined on the picket lines by the far larger Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA).  “The refusal to take writers’ reasonable proposals seriously has caused the WGA strike to last 100 days and counting; it serves only as a milestone of shame” for the studios, the WGA told AFP. The studios “are wholly responsible for the over three-month shutdown of the industry and the pain it has caused workers and all others whose livelihoods depend on this business,” said a union statement. 

Writers and actors are demanding better pay and residuals, guarantees over the future use of artificial intelligence, and other working conditions.  “The cost of settling the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes is far less than the damage their intractability has caused,” said the WGA statement. Coincidentally, the last WGA strike, in 2007-08, was resolved after exactly 100 days. That stoppage cost $2.1 billion to the California economy, according to one estimate by the Milken Institute. This time, there is no apparent end in sight.  Writers and studios tentatively gathered last Friday to discuss formally reopening talks for the first time since May, but the sitdown has not yielded any tangible results. Hours before they even met, a WGA missive to members expressed skepticism about the studios’ good faith. The studios hit back with a terse statement calling the writers’ rhetoric “unfortunate.” Writers say studios have been methodically eroding their salaries for years, making it impossible for all but the very top ranks to earn a living. They contend that the rise of streaming platforms -- who do not generally reveal viewing figures -- has deprived them of giant paydays when they create global hits.  On the picket line outside Netflix’s offices Wednesday, screenwriter Charlie Kesslering said the strike is an “existential fight.” “This is about the careers that we love so much remaining careers, and remaining viable as a way to make a living -- especially in an expensive city like Los Angeles, where you have to live if you want a career in this business,” he told AFP. “It’s going to take a lot more than 100 days for the motivation to go away.”  Also on Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors on an earnings call that he was “personally committed” to finding “solutions to the issues that have kept us apart these past few months.”  Iger has become a focus of anger for strikers, after giving an interview last month in which he called their walkout “disturbing” and “not realistic.” Adopting a more conciliatory note Wednesday, Iger expressed “deep respect and appreciation for all those who are vital to the extraordinary creative engine that drives this company, and our industry.”
But in its statement, the WGA warned: “Ultimately, the studios have no choice but to make a fair deal.”
“Until then, we remain resolved and united.”

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