The roughly 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America began voting Wednesday on whether to authorize a strike.
The WGA is engaged in discussions with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents major studios, networks and independent producers. The two groups are at odds over such issues as compensation and benefits.
The writers are seeking wage hikes, higher residual payments and greater contributions to their health and pension plans. The studios are balking at the guild’s demands.
On Monday, the WGA and the AMPTP suspended talks on a new labor agreement, scheduling them to resume April 25, the day after the strike- authorization vote ends. Negotiations between the WGA and the major studios began March 13 and lasted nearly two weeks, then resumed April 10.
This marked the second time that negotiations have fallen through. The two sides walked away from the table March 24 after the guild said producers balked at their demands. The producers claimed that the writers walked away first, which the guild has denied.
The last time the WGA struck was in 2007, with a work stoppage that lasted 100 days and brought much of the Hollywood industry to a halt.
If members approve a strike, as they almost certainly will, and no pact with studios has been reached by May 1, the writers will stop writing and picketing will start May 2.
When writers walked out a decade ago, the stoppage cost the economy of Los Angeles an estimated $2.5 billion. Production halted, income dried up for writers, set decorators, caterers, limousine drivers and florists, and TV networks ran loads of reruns.
The Writers Guild walked out for 100 days in 2007-8 and 155 days in 1988. In both cases, the most in-demand writers eventually got tired of losing income and applied pressure to wrap it up.
Longtime Hollywood power players — agents, studio executives, labor lawyers — put the chance of a strike at roughly 51 percent, according to The New York Times.
The demands from the writers boils down to raises and bigger payments from studios for the guild’s generous health plan.