On the Picket Line

Writers fight for pay, contract to afford rent, have savings account

By Seth Galinsky
July 3, 2023

NEW YORK — More than 200 striking members and supporters of the Writers Guild of America held a lively picket here June 12, six weeks since walking out against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Among the key issues are the union’s demand for a pay raise to keep up with inflation and that writers get paid for a minimum number of weeks per show and get residuals from rebroadcasts of streamed shows based on viewership.

Writers have the same challenges that other workers face, Writers Guild East Executive Director Lowell Peterson told the Militant. “The employers are trying to get a smaller number of writers to produce more scripts in fewer weeks” to increase profits. Solidarity by other unions “has been a big boost,” he said.

The 160,000-member Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union voted by 98% to authorize a strike when their contract runs out June 30. The Directors Guild of America’s contract runs out the same day.

The rally and picket line, led by the union’s “Women’s Salon,” featured national AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Secretary Treasurer Fred Redmond.

“While Comcast, Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, and Netflix collected almost $30 billion in entertainment operating profits each year from 2017 to 2021,” the Writers Guild said in a statement, “writer pay has actually decreased.”

“It’s no longer possible to have a middle-class lifestyle. It seems almost impossible to afford rent, to occasionally go out to eat, to have a savings account,” said striker Julia Young.

Because the run length of shows is so unpredictable, residuals — a tiny cut that writers, actors and others get from the replay of shows — are a key question for surviving in between jobs.

Streaming services like Netflix refuse to release viewership figures on which residuals are calculated, said Young.

“We get paid a weekly rate,” Young added. “Some days we might work 12 hours or more to get a show into production. I’m learning a lot about the labor movement and why we need unions.”

Visit www.wgacontract2023.org to find and join the picket line nearest you.