Hollywood writers have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike when their contract expires next week, the Writer's Guild of America announced Monday.
Ninety-six percent of voters approved the authorization, according to the Guild. It said 6,310 writers cast ballots, which means 67 percent of eligible members voted. It called that level of turnout historic.
The result was not a surprise; The Guild's leadership encouraged its members to approve the authorization as a show of unity and emphasized that the vote does not mean members will actually walk out. But the Guild hopes the sizable margin gives it more leverage as it returns to the negotiating table Tuesday for the first time in more than a week.
The process is coming down to the wire. The Guild's contract with the studios expires next Monday; it has threatened to walk out the next day if the talks fail.
The last writers strike began in 2007, and lasted 100 days.
The Guild's demands include loosening of exclusivity rules that writers say prevent them working on more than one show at a time, increased script fees for cable and streaming platforms, raises for screenwriters, and help from the studios to shore up the Guild's financially struggling health insurance plan.
The Guild hosted two town hall meetings in Los Angeles and one in New York City last week to discuss the vote. Members could also vote online until noon Monday.
In an email sent to its members Monday afternoon, Guild leaders wrote: "We are determined to achieve a fair contract."
Neither the Guild nor the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios and networks, have commented on the negotiations, citing a press blackout. The Alliance did release a statement Monday to The Hollywood Reporter in which it said its members "are committed to reaching a deal at the bargaining table that keeps the industry working."
It noted that the 2007-08 strike "hurt everyone. Writers lost more than $287 million in compensation that was never recovered, deals were canceled, and many writers took out strike loans to make ends meet."