WGA Strike: HBO & Disney Tell Showrunners To Show Up For Work Despite Labor Action & Picket Lines
Hollywood is in the throes of its biggest labor action in 15 years as the Writers Guild of America is on strike after the collapse of talks with the studios earlier this week. However, for WGA members who are active showrunners, some of the studios want to make damn sure they show up for work.
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“If you are a WGA member, HBO/HBO Max respects your membership in the WGA, and we will not do anything to place you in jeopardy of WGA rules,” a May 2 letter from the Warner Bros Discovery-owned division this week to showrunners and executive producers said. “However, we believe certain services, such as participating in the cast process and/or contributing to non-writing production, and post-production work are clear examples of non-WGA required services that should continue to be rendered during this time,” it continued.
“Under the National Labor Relations Act, the WGA is not permitted to interfere with an employer’s right to designate employees to perform certain supervisory functions,” the correspondence, with accompanying dos and dont’s, added. “If you fail to provide contracted services due to the strike, HBO/HBO Max will not be obliged to continue your salary,” it went on to say in the FAQ portion of the letter.
And then there was the kicker: “Further, if production is interrupted by the strike, even if you offer to continue to work, HBO/HBO Max will not be obliged to continue your salary, nor the salary of the cast and crew.”
Disney shot out a similar letter with the same iron fist in a velvet-glove tone.
“We want specifically to reiterate to you as a showrunner or other writer-producer that you are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike,” said a May 3 email from Disney that was sent to showrunners. “Studio intends to stay in production during the WGA strike and we are legally entitled to do so,” adds the correspondence and attached Q&A from Bob McPhail, assistant chief counsel at ABC Signature.
A letter also went out from Disney’s other primary small screen division 20th Television.
“Everyone but Netflix has sent one it seems,” an insider told Deadline today. However, in fact NBCUniversal did not send out a so-called “breach letter,” sources say. Also Paramount Global has not sent out such a note either.
Still, an exec insisted: “All the studios are planning on sending these letters out.”
While clearly within the letter of the contracts and agreements covering showrunners and other WGA members in non-WGA roles, the notes from the studios feel heavy-handed to some scribes. “We are professionals, we know our obligations and rights and we don’t need to be spoken to like children, like this does,” a showrunner who is working on a studio series asserted today.
The showrunner confirmed that he had received an email from his employer telling him to show up for work – even though his writing team are on the picket lines.
This May 3 letter from Disney unit follows a previous correspondence from the House of Mouse from this week on overall “guidelines” for those working at the company to follow during the WGA strike. “If you are engaged to provide non-WGA services but happen to be a WGA member – for example, as a Director, Actor or Producer – Disney will defend and indemnify you from any fines levied against you,” the note stated in a section focusing on the hyphenated crowd.
Deadline reached out to the WGA for comment on the more recent correspondence directed at showrunners from the studios. We will update this post if and when we hear back from them.
THR first reported the news of the ABC Signature letter.
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