United States: Will WGA/DGA "Pattern" Head Off Potential Hollywood Strike As Sag-Aftra Approaches Deadline For New CBA?

After much hand wringing, a strike that would have significantly impacted the entertainment industry was narrowly avoided last month when the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) agreed to terms of a new collectively bargained agreement for writers' services.

Late last month, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) began negotiations on its new collective bargaining agreement, set to take effect once the current agreement expires on July 1. With the SAG-AFTRA negotiations proceeding under a thick veil of secrecy, the pertinent question is: will the sides be able to identify (or even want to use) a "pattern" established in the WGA and the less-contentious Directors Guild of America (DGA) negotiations to guide the SAG-AFTRA talks, or could a potential deadlock on actor-specific issues bring the industry back to the brink of a work stoppage?

The Tenuous WGA/DGA "Pattern"

Collective bargaining agreements in the entertainment industry are renegotiated every three years, and references to "pattern bargaining" – essentially, the notion that the terms of whichever guild(s) most recently concluded negotiations should apply to the remaining deals – can sometimes be prevalent. Either side may use the pattern argument to justify holding firm on a lucrative bargaining position.

Notably, there has not been much industry chatter about pattern bargaining this cycle. While the DGA and WGA shared some of the same basic concerns addressing changes to the industry's business model brought on by the recent explosion of digital, internet and on-demand services, the two guilds fought hard for separate concrete concessions to deal with these changes.

Agreement Specifics

For example, in response to the rise of subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms, the DGA advocated for increased residuals for high-budget SVOD productions, claiming a significant victory in more than tripling those residuals. But on the WGA side, writers were more concerned about the move toward shorter seasons, fueled in large part by SVOD "binging" culture, and fought hardest for protections for writers working on 6-13 episode seasons, as opposed to traditional 22-24 episode broadcast seasons.

Similarly, the DGA agreed to a 2.5% wage increase in the first year, and 3% wage increases in each of the second and third year of the contract, with just a 0.5% increase in employer contributions to the pension plan. The WGA, with more concern about the long-term financial viability of its pensions, opted for smaller wage increases (2%, 2.5% and 2.5% in each year) in exchange for a stronger infusion of cash into the pension plan, totaling a full 2% increase over the deal's lifetime. Further, the unions each agreed to various carve-outs to the wage increases (for example, a mere 1.5% annual increase in primetime television for the DGA and 1% for the WGA) in order to extract their residuals concessions, a practice that is new for this generation of collectively bargained agreements.

Will SAG-AFTRA Stick To The "Pattern?"

It is arguable that 2017 has a less clear "pattern" to the union bargaining than years past, as each union identifies niche concerns in today's evolving environment.

At the very least, there is sufficient wiggle room between the DGA and WGA precedents that it would be difficult for SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP to adopt the previous agreements in full. While SAG-AFTRA is sure to address industry-wide issues like SVOD and residuals payments (particularly for new media), it remains to be seen how much of a premium actors will place on individual issues as compared to the other unions.

For example, a major concern unique to actors is establishing stronger guiderails around "recurring role" arrangements in which the actor does not sign a series deal; the union will aim to increase compensation and job flexibility for these working actors. And because the SAG-AFTRA agreement does not have separate wage tiers for different types of scripted programming, the union may reject the carve-out based deals that the WGA and DGA both signed.

Risks of Potential Deadlock

The latest media reports show that bilateral prep meetings held in May, and the first two weeks of true negotiations, were bumpy, but there has yet to be indication of any impassable obstacles.

SAG-AFTRA also does not have the same recent history of striking as the WGA does; the last general SAG strike was in 1980. However, SAG-AFTRA is currently on strike against the video game industry to protest treatment of voice actors and stunt performers.

Recalling SAG-AFTRA's potential strike in 2008, the actor's union pushed back strongly against the notion that any pattern of precedent set by the other unions should be binding on actors if it did not suit their needs. The same could hold this year if the union does not believe that its members' interests are served by the varying precedents recently set by the DGA and WGA.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions