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Write the wrong

New York Teacher
A group of members hold signs in support of the WGA
Jonathan Fickies

UFT representatives showed their support for striking workers from the Writers Guild of America at their picket line at the Javits Center on May 16. 

Streaming technology has led to seismic changes in the film and television industry in the past decade. Entertainment companies are spending more, profits are surging and CEOs are earning millions of dollars. But the motion picture, television, digital media and broadcast news writers — without whom this growth would not have been possible — are not reaping the benefits they are due. Their wages have stagnated, and their working conditions have deteriorated.

The more than 10,000 members of the Writers Guild of America, East and Writers Guild of America, West went on strike on May 2 after weeks of contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed. These writers are demanding better pay, greater job security, restricted use of artificial intelligence in writing, staffing minimums in writers’ rooms and higher residuals for the content on streaming services.

The studios’ responses to these demands, the union says, “have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.”

The media companies, in essence, have created a “gig economy” within a union workforce. They devalue writers by refusing to guarantee any level of weekly employment in TV series and by creating a “day rate” in comedy variety writing.

Companies have taken advantage of the transition to streaming to slash pay for writers and separate the writing and production functions. While eight Hollywood CEOs collectively earned nearly $800 million in 2022, pay for TV writers has dropped by 23% in 10 years. Half of TV series writers today earn only the basic minimum rate, up from 33% in 2013–14.

The demands of the Writers Guilds are reasonable and just. The corporate behemoths that run Hollywood should do right by these writers.

Related Topics: Labor issues