By Kiara Amaya
The Writers Guild of America (WGA), a labor union which represents thousands of movie, television, and other scripted media content creators went on strike due to an ongoing labor dispute between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The union went on strike May 2, bringing many productions to a halt. It’s Hollywood’s first strike since 2007.
Writers and other workers have been standing in solidarity in opposition to low wages. Every three years, the East and West branches of the WGA represent thousands of writers of television and film to negotiate new contracts with the major Hollywood studios.
There is still a prominent gap between what writers are fighting for and what studios are willing to offer. Writers have argued that streaming platforms have disintegrated their working conditions. Many writers as well as others in the industry are paid far less in residuals than those with A-list names. Residual pay is a type of royalty for reruns and other showings which has become a crucial source of income for middle-class writers who have been impacted by the popularity of streaming platforms such as Netflix.
Additionally, writers are pushing back against the “abuses” of mini-rooms. A mini-room has been hard to define, however, the most popular definition is a small group of writers who have been hired by a studio before a show has been approved. Since this isn’t considered a formal writers’ room, the studios use this as a way to justify paying writers less. Mini-room writers will often work on a project for as little as ten weeks and then have to quickly find another job.
In response to these demands, studios argue that now is not the best time for major change in how writers are paid. The advertising market is faulty, and cable and broadcast networks, which had been highly profitable and popular for decades, are losing viewers. Additionally, Wall Street found that companies such as Netflix have lost subscribers for the first time in a decade in the last year. This forced studio executives to find a way to quickly gain profit from these streaming services, according to the New York Times. For example, in order to save money, Disney has laid off thousands of workers. Warner Bros. did the same and shelved titles as they confronted substantial debt. Many other studios are implementing similar methods to save money.
The WGA vowed to stay on strike for as long as it takes to see change.
“The week has shown, I think, just how committed and fervent writers’ feelings are about all of this,” Chris Keyser, a chair of the W.G.A. negotiating committee, said in an interview with the New York Times on Friday. “They’re going to stay out until something changes because they can’t afford not to.”
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers which is bargaining on behalf of the studios, streaming services, networks, etc. hopes to reach a mutually beneficial deal.
However, members of the companies are prepared for the strike to continue for at least 100 days, in echo of the 2007-2008 writers strike that lasted that long.