Film and television writers voted on Tuesday to lift their 14-week-old strike against the major studios and return to work the next day, formally ending the worst labour clash to hit Hollywood in 20 years.
The back-to-work order was approved by 92.5 percent of the 3,775 members of Writers Guild of America who cast ballots in Los Angeles and New York two days after union leaders voted unanimously to endorse their contract settlement with the studios.
The vote paves the way for the 10,500 writers who walked off the job on Nov. 5 to return to work first thing on Wednesday.
“The strike is over,” WGA West President Patric Verrone announced at a news conference at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, which served as one of the polling stations. “Out members have voted. Writers can go back to work.”
WGA members will vote later on the three-year contract itself, which provides new payments to writers for work streamed on the Internet and doubles rates they earn for films and TV shows resold as Internet downloads.
The issue of compensating writers for work in new media proved to be the main sticking point in the confrontation between WGA leaders and the entertainment companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
The strike threw the U.S. television industry into turmoil, derailed several Hollywood movie productions and idled thousands of entertainment workers — from actors and directors to hairstylists, set designers and clerks.
The impact included more than $2 billion in lost wages and earnings in the Los Angeles area alone, more than half from damage to businesses like limousine services, florists, caterers and restaurants, according the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp.
The strike also overshadowed the industry’s annual awards season, forcing cancellation of the star-studded Golden Globes ceremony after actors threatened to boycott the event rather than cross picket lines to attend.
The settlement comes just in time for producers of the Oscar telecast, which is scheduled for Feb. 24. Assuming the strike ends this week, Oscar writers will have just 11 days to produce material that normally takes many weeks.
TV studios and networks already are girding to resume work on dozens of scripted comedies and dramas knocked out of production by the strike, hoping to salvage what remains of the current broadcast season.