Just two days ago, a studio executive spoke to Deadline about the WGA strike and said, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” Disney CEO Bob Iger, when speaking to CNBC today, spoke of the writer and actors' strikes as “adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.” This is the same man who just yesterday extended his deal for two years and made almost $50 million alone in 2021.
Here is the thing about strikes — nobody wants to go on them. If workers had the choice, they would be doing the things they love. On the flip side, strikes are meant to be disruptive — to draw attention to the inadequate compensation scales, likeness, and workplace protections that they have not gotten through standard negotiations. This is all the while creators see their projects taken off the streaming services they were asked to beef up with no records or residuals.
The dust has settled, and most of us agree that the second season of “The Bear” is phenomenal. However, it’s a cruel disparity when the writers on the show can barely afford to pay rent and live comfortably off the fruits of their labor. In reality, creativity is being devalued like a punishment. You are not alone if you felt anger in your respective industry, like the kind that radiated off SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher during Thursday afternoon’s press conference speech.
More often than not, many of us share stories of being in a labor force where we feel that we aren’t heard, told “not right now” when it comes to raises no matter how much we input into our jobs, and that there’s an overall contempt geared towards workers. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes feel so raw because so many of us feel that no matter how dedicated we are to our crafts, it will not matter to those above us. Full disclosure, the journalism industry is trying to navigate some shaky ground undergoing massive layoffs while some ex-employees have yet to receive severance payments. I was involved in the G/O Media strike that lasted for four days, where we won an increase in pay and better health care, amongst other things. As a minority in this industry, I hope that one day our expertise and knowledge are rewarded (unfortunately, that’s few and far between).
We understood how important it was because it wasn’t just for us; it was for an entire industry still dealing with the ramifications of AI, cost-cutting, and the overall degradation of original reporting. It shouldn’t be that the only way up is finding the escape hatch to catch a breath from being hurt by the thing you love. All of these creators, I’m sure, would love to go back into their writing rooms and sets – creating things to talk about and moments to relive while those in charge want to duplicate their likenesses with computer programs to save a buck. The viewers and workers alike don’t deserve that outlook because we deserve more — and that’s why SAG-AFTRA is demanding it now.
Because if not now, when? The pendulum has swung so far that when workers have asked for their piece of the pie, it’s looked as greedy, while top execs have made 384 times as much as the writers they employ. This isn’t just a fight about having new shows to watch on Max or Hulu; it’s ensuring there’s an environment to ensure the responsible know they are appreciated for giving them to us. Labor is a powerful thing to provide, which should be met with a powerful need to compensate for it – and not just be the collateral for the bad choices of bosses that lead them.