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Writers' Strike: Spreading And No End In Sight?

CBS
CNBC.com
CBS

We're in the second week of the writers' strike and there's no sign of any negotiations on the horizon. I've been polling writers, actors, and producers I know and they're all already fed up. But that doesn't mean that there's any resolution in sight.

Now news writers may be joining their creative peers. Some 500 unionized CBS television and radio writers--members of Writers Guild East--are expected to vote to authorize a strike on Thursday. That doesn't mean they'll actually strike, but they've been working under and expired contract since April 2005, and they're going to push for a more generous contract. CBS says they're prepared, but it would be an unfortunate pressure for the network.

And it's not just writers on the picket lines. On Saturday, Broadway theatre stagehands went on strike over their contract with producers, immediately shutting down 27 Broadway productions and costing the theater and related businesses as much as $17 million dollars a day. About 45,000 jobs are related to Broadway. And it's not just their lost wages and lost revenue from those concession stands in theaters--more than half of Broadway tickets are bought by tourists, which means less hotel and restaurant revenue.

But not everyone is protesting and out of work. Some soap opera writers in the Writers Guild are crossing the picket lines in order to keep their jobs. These writers are giving up their full guild membership, going to the "financial core" of their membership, in order to continue writing during the strike. The soap operas are already under so much pressure, the writers are concerned that the networks will simply hire scabs, and replace them. Unlike other programming, soap operas can't run reruns, fans are desperate for the story line to continue!

No negotiations on the table, and the producers are unlikely to step forward any time soon. There's a clause, called "force majure" that allows the media companies, during a strike, to negate contracts. These clauses don't usually kick in until six weeks into a strike, so the producers are unlikely to want to negotiate until six full weeks have passed, so they can clean house, cut costs, and actually take advantage of the otherwise damaging strike.

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.