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The Directors Guild Of America Tells Its Members To Keep Working, Even If The Writers Guild Goes On Strike

Several signs held aloft by members of the Writers Guild of America. The largest sign reads, "Writers Guild of America: Strike:" Several other smaller signs are visible. The signs are in red, black and white.
Picketers outside of NBC studios during the 2007/08 WGA strike.
(David McNew
Getty Images)
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Earlier this week, WGA members voted overwhelmingly — nearly 98% of those casting ballots — to authorize a strike against film and television studios and streamers. It gives WGA negotiators the freedom to launch a work stoppage if they can’t agree on new contract terms by May 1.

In advance of a possible work stoppage, studios and streamers have been stockpiling scripts, meaning shooting could continue well through the summer.

But if other Hollywood guilds — like actors and filmmakers — refuse to cross WGA picket lines, filming could cease overnight.

So far, one such union — the Directors Guild of America — has told its members they must keep working even if the WGA walks out; the DGA said its contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers mandates it.

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It’s the second time the DGA has reminded its members to cross pickets ahead of a potential strike; the guild sent a nearly identical message to its members before the WGA went on strike in late 2007.

In an email sent by DGA president Lesli Linka Glatter and national executive director Russell Hollander to DGA members, the guild reminded the DGA that while “we recognize that the possibility of a writers’ strike creates widespread uncertainty about its potential impact,” DGA members are contractually prohibited from assisting in or joining “any strike, slow-down or stoppage of work.”

The DGA, whose contract negotiations with studios and streamers start in mid-June, said that it recognized some of its members may be morally uncomfortable crossing a picket line.

If you ... refuse to cross a picket line and perform your DGA-covered services, then your employer has the right to replace you.
— DGA letter to its members

Nevertheless, Glatter and Hollander wrote, “our no-strike clauses are clear. However, as an individual, you cannot be forced to work. If you, as an individual, refuse to cross a picket line and perform your DGA-covered services, then your employer has the right to replace you; if you have a personal services agreement, you may be subject to claims for breach of contract.”

The AMPTP has language in other collective bargaining agreements mirroring the DGA “no-strike” language. The Screen Actors Guild has not yet publicly expressed its strike guidance for performers.

One WGA member, who asked not to be identified, said the DGA’s lack of solidarity was disappointing.

“It’s such a basic rule of union organizing … but it doesn’t exist in Hollywood,” the writer told me. “It’s not an ‘essential’ part of their agreement — it’s just one they caved on.”

When the WGA last went on strike, in 2007, the DGA did not join the strike, and neither did the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (with more than 50,000 below-the-line members).

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Do the stories that Hollywood tells about itself really reflect what's going on?

That WGA walkout began on Nov. 5 and lasted 100 days, and even though many in the industry crossed the WGA pickets, the strike’s impact was nearly immediate and devastating. Within a month of the strike’s starting, a few TV series ran out of new episodes. By mid-December, a little more than a month after the walkout began, almost all scripted TV production stopped.

Late-night shows, such as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Show With David Letterman had to broadcast reruns. A variety of network hits, including Two and a Half Men, The Office and Desperate Housewives went off the air.

Oddly enough, even though the DGA crossed the WGA pickets in 2007-08, it did help bring about a settlement.

The DGA moved up its contract talks with the AMPTP to during the WGA’s strike. And when the DGA was able to negotiate some deal terms that also were important to the WGA, the filmmakers’ union created a template that the WGA could then copy.

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