Hollywood Bosses Are Trying to Scare Striking Workers Into Folding. They Won’t Win.

Hollywood Bosses Are Trying to Scare Striking Workers Into Folding. They Won’t Win.

Hollywood Bosses Are Trying to Scare Striking Workers Into Folding. They Won’t Win.

The studios are ramping up a campaign of fear in an effort to spook writers like me into taking a bad deal. But we’re not going to fall for it.


I first wrote for The Nation about the Writers Guild of America strike on May 4, the third day of our walkout. This week, we hit the strike’s 75-day mark, a milestone that underscores our commitment to this fight. We also gained a crucial new ally—the members of SAG-AFTRA, who decided to join us on the picket lines after they encountered the same intransigence from Hollywood studios as we did.

The SAG-AFTRA strike is a significant expansion of the scale and momentum of our struggle. But in a few key ways, things are the same for us as they were two-and-a-half months ago. Our members have continued to show up day after day on the picket lines. Our resolve to hold out for a fair contract, one that compensates writers fairly for the profits we generate and allows us to cultivate sustainable long-term careers and support our families (in whatever way we define them) has not wavered.

That level of determination is the kind of consistency you want to see. But the Hollywood bosses on the other side of the bargaining table have been equally consistent in their refusal to negotiate with us over the past 75 days. They’re also ramping up a campaign of fear in an effort to intimidate us into folding.

Last week, Deadline reported that the studios intended to hold fast in their refusal to bargain through the summer. There’s no real reason to trust the anonymous sources who spoke to Deadline, since they have a clear motive of trying to scare the WGA into taking a bad deal. However, I want to include a quote from the article for the sake of showing the kinds of things that some representatives from the studios feel comfortable allowing people to believe.

“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it “a cruel but necessary evil.”

Even with a full industry of working writers, it would have been hard to craft a more craven or less sympathetic public-facing message. Let’s put aside the dubious veracity of the claim that these companies, who themselves need to make money, are enthusiastic for another three months of stalemate. Accurate or not, these were colossally ghoulish comments to make. As I wrote previously, we put forth a slate of proposals that, if enacted, would leave the studios with roughly 98 percent of their current operating profits. Rather than concede, they responded that it’s “necessary” for our members to lose their homes—presumably so that we stop acting like workers with rights and start acting like the feudal serfs they clearly believe us to be.

A statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios in these negotiations, disavowed the Deadline comments, saying the studios are “committed to reaching a deal,” which also rings hollow, considering the fact that if they wanted to offer us a contract with reasonable terms, they know how to find us. We are literally outside their offices every day of the week, walking in circles and periodically changing direction for the sake of our knees and hips.

While there hasn’t been movement at the bargaining table yet, many aspects of the strike have changed since May. Thanks to the solidarity of IATSE crews and Teamsters respecting WGA picket lines, often at great personal sacrifice, numerous films and television shows have suspended production. The Entertainment Community Fund distributed over $1.1 million through the end of June to support workers affected by the work stoppages. The Directors Guild of America ratified a new contract. The Television Academy announced this year’s Emmy Award nominees, and nobody really knew how to celebrate. And now, SAG-AFTRA has decided to seize the day (credit: Newsies) as well by calling a strike of its own.

People have been calling these two simultaneous strikes “historic,” and the thing about consensus is that sometimes it’s correct. The WGA and SAG last struck simultaneously in 1960, and the ensuing contract significantly expanded a residual structure that allowed writers and actors to benefit from the success of their work for the next 60 years. It’s not coincidental that residuals are at stake again during this current double strike. As Ben Schwartz wrote in The Nation last week, the AMPTP is trying to turn back the clock, once again refusing to hand over a fair portion of the profits studios make from our work (I say “our” comfortably because I’m also a SAG-AFTRA member). But it doesn’t end there. The AMPTP has also laid claim to our very selves. According to SAG-AFTRA, the contract the studios offered contained a provision whereby a background actor could be paid for a single day of work only to have their likeness manipulated by AI and used in perpetuity with no additional compensation. That doesn’t seem like the kind of proposal made by an organization that’s committed to reaching a deal.

Disney CEO Bob Iger accused the striking workers of not being “realistic” in our position, which is a bit rich, both literally and figuratively, coming from a man with a net worth well into the hundreds of millions of dollars, whose company employs a department full of “Imagineers” tasked with fantasizing the improbable and then conjuring it into existence. Maybe Iger could ask someone from the Imagineering wing of the Disney campus to dream up a fairer paradigm for compensation than his own capacity for creativity permits. A quick note: That system did exist in the form of broadcast television and theatrical film releases until the studios pivoted to streaming in an effort to stake a claim to even more of the entertainment industry’s profits. So now we’re back where we were 60 years ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So, as the WGA strike continues, our position remains steadfast. We will not take less than we deserve, less than we’ve earned. We welcome our union siblings in SAG-AFTRA to the picket lines in even greater numbers, now that this fight is for their own futures as well as ours. Together, we will be even stronger than we were on our own. We will not be broken, no matter how many threats studio executives make under the veil of anonymity (and then rescind). We’ve picketed for two months, and our ranks are only growing stronger as the studios menace and flail.

Sometimes, I think, the more things stay the same, the more things can eventually change.

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