By Sara Lesczynski
In early May 2023, The Writers Guild of America (WGA),which is made up of two major labor unions, went on strike to fight for better working conditions for their writers. The WGA represents over 11,000 media writers that have written all of your favorite movies, tv shows, skits, radio, and more. The main points of the protest call for higher pay, a stable pay structure, fair contracts, and Artificial Intelligence limitations. In short, the WGA is “fighting for the survival of television and film writing as a sustainable career”, says Adam Conover, Hollywood actor, comedian, writer, and labor organizer.
People want to get paid more and have more stability, why not just ask their boss for a raise? It is an industry-wide practice to not have to accept these requests from writers, actors, and tech’s. The entertainment industry being as competitive as it is and artists being told from childhood that in this industry “everyone is replaceable,” “Just say ‘yes and,’” and to expect to be a “starving artist” creates a world where a single person cannot make change for themselves. A union is needed.
In order to create change the WGA has to go to the ring leader. The AMPTP is the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. They are the collection of every major producer in the industry. Such as Disney, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Netflix, CBS, ect… Part of the AMPTP’s responsibility is to negotiate “virtually all industry-wide guild and union contracts”. The WGA does not directly deal with individual producers, because companies outsource the responsibilities of negotiations to the AMPTP to protect themselves from risk and potential consequences. How the AMPTP works is, a union like the WGA will go to them and say “Hey, our writers want livable wages. Let’s establish a new minimum wage.” The AMPTP, whose clients are major industry companies that want to make as much money and spend as little money as possible, says “Nope.” Because of this writers have banded together and started the picket lines.
Writers and supporters are physically standing outside Hollywood sets, creating picket lines, signifying the difference between “us and them,” the “good and bad.” This lets passer byers and production companies know that the WGA Union members are standing strong and continuing to fight for the ability for screen writing to be a sustainable career.
America’s sweetheart Drew Barrymore is currently under fire in the press for returning back to filming The Drew Barrymore Show, a self named talkshow. In videos of picket lines protesting outside her studio, one can see WGA members holding signs saying her writers are outside striking and have not crossed picket lines. When announcing her comeback on instagram Barrymore stated: “we are in compliance with not discussing or promoting film and television that is struck of any kind.” Whether that is true or not, her writers are still WGA members and as Matt Lippen, a writer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert stated in a TIME interview, “We are all for one and one for all. So if one doesn’t do, it hurts us all.” Many are accusing Barrymore of being a “preformative activist”. In the sense that she will talk about Black Lives Matter, civil unjust overseas, she’ll wear a mask in public. However, when a social issue, such as the writers strike negatively affects her, she takes a step back and does what benefits her the most, instead of doing what is best for the group.
The Writers Strike will have negative consequences for all of us. In short, you’re not going to be getting any new content for a while. Hypothetically if the strike ended today, there wouldn’t be any releases for close to another year. If the strike continues into pilot season (January-March), you can expect even further cancellations and delays. But at the end of the day our disappointment in not getting a new season of Stranger Things quickly enough doesn’t compare to thousands of Hollywood production staff being out for work for almost 5 months.
If you’re asking yourself “How can I help?”, there are a myriad of ways to support your favorite writers. You can speak up on social media, donate to support funds, and much more. A full list of how to help can be found at www.wgacontract2023.org.