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WGA Leaders Tell Members Not to Get Hopes Up After AMPTP Overture

Leaders of the Writers Guild of America expressed cautious optimism on Wednesday about a move to resume bargaining, but said they are still ready to stay on strike over the long haul.

The head of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers called the WGA’s chief negotiator on Tuesday to set up a Friday meeting to discuss how to proceed.

“It’s a meeting to discuss meeting,” said John Rogers, a member of the WGA negotiating committee, who was picketing outside Warner Bros. on Wednesday morning. “We’re trying to urge members to remember that this is a great first step, but not to get your hopes up too much.”

Though there have been some backchannel talks over the last week or so, the phone call was the first formal communication between the AMPTP and the WGA since negotiations broke down on May 1. Carol Lombardini, the CEO of the AMPTP, did not discuss any of the issues that led to the writers’ strike, which is now in its 93rd day.

WGA leaders have said that the studio group refused to offer counter-proposals on a half dozen items, including a viewership-based streaming residual and a staffing minimum for TV shows.

“Hopefully they’re ready to actually talk about our issues,” said Adam Conover, another WGA negotiating committee member, who was picketing at Netflix. “No one’s going to celebrate until there’s something worth celebrating… Everyone’s like, ‘Movement is movement, sure, great.’ But no one’s getting ahead of themselves.”

Some have raised concern that the studios are trying to appear reasonable, but will still offer something far less than the significant changes sought by the guild.

“We don’t know why they’re bringing us back to the table,” said Alex Eldridge, a WGA member picketing at Paramount. “Is it to address the concerns that the guild has sufficiently? Or is it to try to put a Bandaid on the bullet hole? We just don’t know.”

In 2007-08, negotiations resumed just three weeks after the strike began. But the talks went on intermittently for another two months before the strike was resolved. Many current members still recall that.

“We’re just here for the long haul,” said J.T. Allen, a WGA captain at Warner Bros. “The conversations I’ve had with people have essentially gone you know, ‘If we’re here another 100 days, we are. And if we’re not, great.’”

Despite the heat, crowds at the L.A. studios were as big as ever on Wednesday. Passing cars honked their support, and members were urged to stay hydrated and to wear sunblock and floppy hats.

SAG-AFTRA, which went on strike on July 14, has not received any overture from the AMPTP. Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s chief negotiator, called on the studio group on Wednesday to resume talks with his union as well.

“The only way a strike comes to an end is through the parties talking and we urge them to return to the table so that we can get the industry back to work as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

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