Writers’ strike ends after 100 days - HISTORY
Year
2008

Writers’ strike ends after 100 days

Hollywood’s longest work stoppage since 1988 ends on this day in 2008, when members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) vote by a margin of more than 90 percent to go back to work after a walkout that began the previous November 5.

The writers’ strike began during the negotiation of the WGA’s latest contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents over 300 production companies. Negotiations stalled after WGA members demanded a share of the revenues generated by movies, television shows and other works distributed on the Internet and viewed on computers, cell phones and other new-media devices.

Heavily covered by the press, the walkout proved to be much more damaging to the entertainment industry than expected. More than 60 TV shows had to be shut down, causing a drop in ratings and the loss of tens of millions of dollars in ad revenue for the networks. By the end, the strike was estimated to have cost the local L.A. economy more than $3 billion, taking into account lost wages for writers and crew members, lost business for service industries such as catering and equipment rental and reduced consumer spending. For the duration of the strike, TV viewers at home were forced to go without new episodes of their favorite shows, as networks dealt with the shutdown of production by loading the schedule with reruns and increased amounts of reality programming (such as a revamped version of the 1990s hit American Gladiators).

Negotiators reached a tentative agreement on February 8, and both the East Coast and West Coast branches of the WGA ratified the deal on February 10. Two days later, the writers themselves approved the truce, and a new contract with the AMPTP was signed February 25. Based in part on a deal signed the previous month between production companies and the Directors Guild of America, the new contract gave WGA members residual payments for programs streamed online (at a much higher rate than that paid for DVDs) and formalized union jurisdiction over programming created for the Web. Writers would be paid for shows streamed on advertising-supported Web sites and WGA members hired to write original content for the Web would be covered under a union contract.

Though labor experts and WGA supporters heralded the outcome as an important victory for the striking writers, the contract included several key concessions. Studios could hire non-union writers to work on low-budget Internet shows, for example, and no residuals would be paid to writers for repeat shows viewed online within a few weeks after the original show aired on television. The strike also failed to win the union jurisdiction over the ever-more-important realms of reality programming and animation.

Still, in an email message to East and West Coast writers groups quoted in the New York Times, Patric M. Verrone, president of the West Coast guild, and Michael Winship, his East Coast counterpart, stressed the positive ending to the 2007-08 writers’ strike: “Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success.”

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Judy Blume, popular young-adult author, is born

On this day in 1938, best-selling author Judy Blume, known for her children’s books and young-adult novels, including “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,” is born in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Blume’s books have been beloved by several ...read more

Last emperor of China abdicates

On February 12, 1912, Hsian-T’ung, the last emperor of China, is forced to abdicate following Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution. A provisional government was established in his place, ending 267 years of Manchu rule in China and 2,000 years of imperial rule. The former emperor, ...read more

Scharansky released

After spending eight years in Soviet prisons and labor camps, human rights activist Anatoly Scharansky is released. The amnesty deal was arranged by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan at a summit meeting three months earlier.Scharansky was imprisoned ...read more

President Clinton acquitted

On February 12, 1999, the five-week impeachment trial of Bill Clinton comes to an end, with the Senate voting to acquit the president on both articles of impeachment: perjury and obstruction of justice.In November 1995, Clinton began an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a 21-year-old ...read more

Milosevic goes on trial for war crimes

On this day in 2002, former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic goes on trial at The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Milosevic served as his own attorney for much of the prolonged trial, which ended without a verdict when ...read more

Rommel in Africa

On this day, German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Tripoli, Libya, with the newly formed Afrika Korps, to reinforce the beleaguered Italians’ position.In January 1941, Adolf Hitler established the Afrika Korps for the explicit purpose of helping his Italian Axis partner maintain ...read more

Release of U.S. POWs begins

The release of U.S. POWs begins in Hanoi as part of the Paris peace settlement. The return of U.S. POWs began when North Vietnam released 142 of 591 U.S. prisoners at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport. Part of what was called Operation Homecoming, the first 20 POWs arrived to a hero’s ...read more

Basketball great Bill Russell born

Bill Russell, the legendary center for the Boston Celtics during the 1960s, is born in Monroe, Louisiana. During his 13-year career with the Celtics, Russell helped the team to 11 NBA championships.As a child, Russell’s family moved from Louisiana to California to escape racism ...read more

Abraham Lincoln is born

On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln is born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Lincoln, one of America’s most admired presidents, grew up a member of a poor family in Kentucky and Indiana. He attended school for only one year, but thereafter read on his own in a continual effort to ...read more

Lorne Greene is born

Lorne Greene, the actor who played Ben Cartwright on the immensely popular television Western Bonanza, is born in Ontario, Canada. An only child, Greene later said he based his portrayal of Ben Cartwright on his own father, Daniel Greene.Greene’s rise to national stardom in ...read more

Iranian jet slams into mountain

On this day in 2002, an Iranian passenger jet crashes into the side of a mountain, killing all 117 people on board.Iran Air Tours, a subsidiary of Iran Air, scheduled the Russian-built Tupolev 154 jet to leave Tehran, Iran’s capital city, at 6:30 a.m. It was to be a short flight ...read more

Actor Sal Mineo is killed in Hollywood

Actor Sal Mineo is stabbed to death in Hollywood, California. Mineo was parking his car behind his apartment when neighbors heard his cries for help. Some described a white man with brown hair fleeing the scene. By the time they reached Mineo, he was almost dead from a deep wound ...read more

Russian ships bump U.S. destroyer and cruiser

Two Soviet warships bump two U.S. navy vessels in waters claimed by the Soviet Union. The incident was an indication that even though the Cold War was slowly coming to a close, old tensions and animosities remained unabated.The incident between the ships took place in the Black ...read more