This afternoon, the WGA announced a strike authorization vote — which is a very different thing than calling a strike. But it’s apt to be misreported wildly in tomorrow’s papers.

If voted through, a strike authorization allows (but does not require) the WGA to call a strike after the contract expires October 31, 2007. Another obvious use? As leverage in ongoing negotiations. The Hollywood Reporter points out:

Such votes are common prior to contract expirations and don’t necessarily indicate pessimism over prospects for a settlement.

For instance, the Teamsters took such a vote mere days before settling on their most recent contract with the AMPTP (HR 8/2). Leaders of Teamsters Local 399, who negotiate jointly with four Basic Crafts locals, simply sought to underscore the seriousness of their intent in buttoning up several deal points as the calendar counted down toward a July 31 contract expiration.