Do the write thing

Writers Guild of America goes on first strike since 2008

Emma Mathews, Staff Writer

Illustration by Mia Eshima

On May 2, 2023, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. All late-night talk shows went dark and began airing re-runs, Saturday Night Live canceled the rest of their season and the production of dozens of shows was halted. 

The strike follows six weeks of failed negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers concerning the WGA seeking higher compensation for their members’ work. The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers, a trade association, represents many major Hollywood studios and handles their bargaining and negotiation ordeals. Those represented by the AMPTP include Amazon, Disney, Netflix, Apple, Warner Brothers, Paramount and Sony, as well as most major broadcast stations, such as NBC Universal, ABC, CBS and Fox. 

The initial proposal made by the WGA would cost studios approximately $429 million; the AMPTP’s counteroffer has been at $86 million. As of now, official negotiations have stalled. 

Over the last decade, writers’ pay has declined by 23%, after accounting for inflation. This is one of the main reasons the WGA chose to strike. Aside from unfair wages on initial payment, the WGA is also demanding better residual pay. For decades residual pay has accounted for a large portion of a writer’s compensation, but because of the rise of streaming, writers seldom receive residual checks once their work lands on a streaming platform. If they will not be receiving residual payment, the WGA wants better up-front pay.

With streaming services and their binge-able show models, writers have recently been faced with less job security. For decades, a writer could rely on having a steady job for several years on a full-season show. This is no longer their reality. This not only reduces their job security but also their per-episode pay. Streaming has also popularized the “mini-room,” majorly scaling down the size of their writer’s room and diminishing job opportunities for thousands. 

The WGA is demanding less exclusive contracts, which would allow writers to work on multiple shows at once or at least seek out other jobs while employed elsewhere, as these short-term jobs do not allow for making a sustainable living. They are also demanding that the writer’s room house enough staff for nobody to have to work overtime. 

The final big ask from the WGA is protection from the threatening loom of AI. As the strike has gone on, the WGA has begun to negotiate and agree to explore AI options as collaborators as long as their writing credits are not affected. 

While the actual business behind the strike is going on behind the scenes and out of the public’s eye, the strike will heavily impact the entertainment industry as we know it.

 Nathaniel Gale, a first-year political science major, believes the strike will hold a large impact on the world of Hollywood.  

“It’s an interesting thing that’s not being talked about enough in today’s news, and it’s going to have implications that we are not yet feeling but we will,” Gale said. “This has enough momentum to really impact all of Hollywood and how we perceive movie and writing culture.” 

New seasons for many of people’s favorite shows will be delayed for quite some time. Most of the time a show’s script is not complete before filming begins, meaning that no matter how much writers had accomplished before the strike began, shows prepping for a new season will not be able to start filming. Some of the shows impacted include Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, Abbott Elementary and Yellowjackets. 

The movie industry will inevitably be impacted by this strike as well; however, because movies are in post-production for so long and are finished months before release dates, it will take months for this strike to catch up with public media consumption.

Protests outside major entertainment industries, have been filled with writers, actors, producers and managers since day one and will likely continue until demands are met. 

Actors, who rely on writers to have a job, have recently hinted at the idea of a Screen Actors Guild strike to support the writers and further emphasize the importance of their role in Hollywood. The SAG has decided they will hold an official strike vote in the upcoming weeks.