Just as he did before the showdown that shut down Los Angeles schools for three days in March, Bass has assiduously maintained a neutral stance on Hollywood’s ongoing labor dispute. The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for two months, while SAG-AFTRA, which represents the actors, is also set to halt work when the deadline to reach a deal with the studios expires Wednesday. A strike by the two unions, the first since the 1960s, would bring Hollywood to a standstill.
Bass, like most Los Angeles Democrats, has allies on both sides of the negotiating table. It’s a dynamic that carries all the way to Governor Gavin Newsom.
The actors’ strike threatens to hit workers outside the entertainment industry immediately, as production shutdowns and support for businesses, such as dry cleaners and caterers, become collateral damage.
« The mayor remains concerned about the impact the lack of agreement has had on the workers of this city and their families, as well as the impact it has had on our economy, » said Zach Seidl, a spokesman for Bass. « We must unite around a deal that protects our signature industry and the families it supports. »
Newsom also declined to take a lead role in mediating the dispute, telling reporters on Wednesday that « we are involved on the periphery and have offered our direct involvement » if either side wants it and noting that he is in « constant contact » with the stakeholders.
Like Bass, the Democratic governor is close to or politically allied with players on both sides but is sensitive to economic realities if it drags on for much longer, advisers said. He’s also aware that the details of the strike, including the future of streaming and the rules governing AI, aren’t something easily fixed or even conducive to resolution by elected officials.
The writers’ strike took a sour turn this week with Deadline Hollywood reporting that studio bosses plan to hold off talks until at least October, inflicting maximum economic damage on WGA members. AMPTP, the organization representing the studios, refuted the plan Wednesday, but told Deadline they are « committed to reaching an agreement. »
Meanwhile, SAG-AFTRA goes on strike Thursday with no last-minute progress with the help of a federal mediator.
So far, there hasn’t been a real clamor for politicians to meddle in the talks. All three candidates for the upcoming U.S. Senate race have made cameos on the pickets in front of the studios. But privately, their teams acknowledge that it’s not up to them to commit to the details of the deal. However, an assistant to one of the candidates said they were actively looking for ways to get involved.
“It’s important that people in competitive races show that they stand up for Hollywood, the industry and the workers below the line who create and produce these things. … And there are many other people who are less focused on work and more interested in preserving Hollywood donor connections,” Herman said. « Every politician is in cross conflict here. »
No elected official has much of an appetite for a sustained brawl in Hollywood. The last extended writer’s strike in 2007-2008 took an estimated $2.1 billion out of California’s economy and cost more than 30,000 jobs, according to a Milken Institute report. In the state’s largest political enclaves, that strike and the stakes were palpable, especially in Sacramento, where box office kingpin Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the governor’s office backchanneling both sides.
It may be some time before Bass and even Newsom feel compelled to leap into the fray more forcefully. A veteran Los Angeles politician who declined to be quoted due to the sensitive nature of the negotiations said there are a few scenarios where the mayor can play a role in breaking a union deadlock: If a deal is close to the finish line, if the parties are in severe financial pain or if city services shut down in a way that causes angry calls from constituents.
“It’s not that the schools are closed, it’s not that the buses are stopped,” the politician said. « I just don’t feel like they’re close right now. »