One of the things we realize with the unfolding of the writers’ strike in America is that, as one of the strikers said in an interview, creativity starts with the writers, and the rest of the industry simply can’t move forward without the words on the page. Those were the words of a writer from California named Mercedes. The witty hosts and engaging actors we admire would be empty personalities on screen were it not for the words that the writers supply them with, along with the ideas or concepts that they usually infuse into a show, episode, or film.
Another important fact that is sometimes overlooked here in the Philippines is that many of the workers’ labor demands have a bigger chance of being realized if they are banded together as a community. In this case, the American writers’ singular voices grew into one powerful voice as the Writers Guild of America’s (WGA) strong message, made even louder by support from non-members like show hosts, producers, musicians, and other stakeholders. Even regular viewers are expressing support by watching shows that help keep people employed under better conditions. WGA is an alliance of two labor unions representing over 11,000 film, television, news, radio, and online writers who mostly write scripts for television, movies, podcasts, streaming shows, late-night shows, etc.
Hollywood is big on guilds or unions. Talents—writers, actors, models, crew members, etc.—have realized that the power to negotiate for better pay and better working conditions lies in doing so as a big group. Aside from that, the culture of solidarity is quite strong in this town. Even if the directors and actors are not the ones on strike, they express support and take concrete actions so that when the time comes when it’s their turn, other sectors will also be in solidarity. This is how they are able to make big gains in their labor struggle. In the last writers’ strike in 2007-2008, production on scripted shows simply stopped for more than three months, causing companies to lose around $2 billion. This time, experts predict that the fallout may be even greater.
With the popularity of streaming companies like Netflix and Disney, studios and production companies have been raking in profits in recent years. Wages, unfortunately, have been falling due to unfair labor structures, deals, and contracts. According to WGA, pay has fallen 23 percent over the last decade. And so finally on May 2, 2023, the writers decided to picket the headquarters of major studios including Netflix, Amazon, Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Paramount, Sony, NBC Universal, Apple, and Disney. If the strike continues, viewers will start noticing a dearth of content in their favorite shows in the days and weeks to come. At the moment, many of the affected shows are just running on banked or reserved episodes.