California State Treasurer Fiona Ma sent letters this week to studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, urging them to negotiate “fair deals” to end the dual strikes led by film and TV writers and actors.
Ma, in her role as treasurer and as a board member of state pension funds serving public workers and teachers, wrote letters to seven companies: Netflix, Walt Disney Co., Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery, Apple, Paramount Global and Amazon. Her message emphasized the damage the prolonged labor dispute is having on the state’s economy.
“The impact of these two strikes paralyzes Hollywood and reverberates across the state, affecting countless businesses, thousands of pension fund beneficiaries, and millions of Californians,” Ma wrote in a Wednesday letter to Brian Roberts, chief executive of NBCUniversal owner Comcast. “Your failure to come to an agreement is threatening the industry’s ability to ensure that writing, acting and other positions are viewed as sustainable careers in California.”
Film and TV writers, represented by the Writers Guild of America, have been on strike since early May. The WGA and the studios remain far apart on key issues, including minimum staffing in writers rooms and writer access to viewership data on streaming services.
Actors represented by SAG-AFTRA joined the writers on the picket line in mid-July. SAG-AFTRA has said it is still waiting to hear from the AMPTP on resuming negotiations. The twin strikes have ground scripted film and television production to a virtual halt in the state.
Ma, who is also a member of SAG-AFTRA, said the dispute has put an economic system vital to the California economy at “significant risk.” For example, 15,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have been out of work for months due to the WGA strike, she said. About 20% of L.A.-area income comes from the entertainment or adjacent industries and more than 700,000 Californians are employed in entertainment jobs, Ma said.
Progress toward a deal between the WGA and the studios has been slow, despite the recent resumption of negotiations inspiring a fleeting wave of cautious optimism.
Last week, after WGA balked at the AMPTP’s Aug. 11 counterproposal, the AMPTP released a six-page summary publicly, calling it a “comprehensive package which addresses all of the issues the Guild has identified as its highest priorities.” Many writers said it did not go nearly far enough and bristled at the studios’ tactic of releasing the details of their offer to the press. The WGA’s negotiating committee said it responded to the AMPTP’s counterproposal on Aug. 15.
“Our priority is to end the strike so that valued members of the creative community can return to what they do best and to end the hardships that so many people and businesses that service the industry are experiencing,” the studio alliance’s president, Carol Lombardini, said in a statement last week.
In addition to Ma, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli have also put pressure on AMPTP companies.
Lander sent letters earlier this month on behalf of five New York City pension funds urging Comcast, Paramount Global and Walt Disney Co. to end the strikes. DiNapoli also sent letters earlier this year encouraging AMPTP member companies to settle the labor dispute “on terms that are fair to both labor and management.”