As of May 2nd, 2023, the Writers Guild of America is officially on strike. The WGA is the combination of two labor unions, and they have over 11,000 employees - all of which find themselves out of work. If you’ve driven past a television production studio, you would have seen hundreds of writers holding red signs and demanding justice. Or, you may have noticed that your favorite TV shows are no longer airing, like SNL or The Daily Show. Clearly, this writer’s strike affects everyone - but what is it even about?
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, consists of all major television companies like Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix, NBC, and more. For over six months, the WGA and AMPTP attempted to negotiate a contract. The writer’s demands were simple: Better healthcare benefits, better wages, and better compensation for their shows. But the companies in AMPTP have one thing in mind: Profit. Now that many viewers watch TV through the internet, instead of satellite dish, most television companies have switched to prioritizing their streaming services. Over the last 10 years, studio profit has increased by over 35%; while this seems like a good thing for writers, it’s actually not. Median weekly writer-producer pay has decreased 23 percent within that same timeframe, and writer’s salaries have decreased by 4%. However, cost of living adjustment, or COLA, went up a whole 8.7% just this year alone. Clearly, writer’s are not getting the wages that they deserve.
An uprise in streaming services has changed more than just profit - it’s also changed the way that writers are hired. In the past, a TV show would have 20-24 episodes per season. That meant the writer’s on the production would have jobs for a long period of time. But now, television series are made to be bingeable, meaning seasons only have 8-10 episodes. While this makes it more pleasant for the viewers, the writer’s on the show are barely receiving half the pay that they used to be. To put it simply, members of the WGA are having a very difficult time finding work, and being paid enough to live off of.
When AMPTP refused to revise the WGA contract, the writers knew they had to do something. After extensive deliberation, the WGA decided that their only course of action was to initiate a strike. This isn’t a first-time occurrence, however, as the WGA has striked as far as the 1950s. Altogether, the guild has striked 8 times, although this is the first one in 15 years. Although the instances range in length, some of them have lasted as long as 150 days before an agreement was met. So, how long will this strike last? To be short, we don’t know. Writer’s work very hard for their pay, and the strike was the product of careful planning; the WGA will continue to fight until their demands are met.
My dad, Heath Seifert, is a writer and producer who has created shows like Goodburger, All That, and Austin and Ally. But now, like many others he finds himself out of the office and out onto the picket lines. He shares his own thoughts on the strike:
“As production slows down, a lot of crew members will be out of work. The AMPTPs unwillingness to offer a fair deal and refusal to even discuss issues that are important to us is hurting a lot of people. The California economy is losing 30 million dollars a day. But the strike is necessary. Everyone on the line knows we are doing the right thing and believes in the cause. The support from other unions is overwhelming and morale is strong. Ultimately, there WILL be a deal, and it will establish important precedents that will benefit future writers, and others who work in production.”
Below is a photo collection from the past few weeks of the strike, all images taken by Heath Seifert. Everyday, WGA employees have been waving signs in front of major motion picture production companies, hoping that their voices will be heard and their demands will be met.
Clearly, this strike is something that we should take seriously. It has affected thousands of people; not just writers, but viewers as well. “Companies spend billions on content. The CEOS have all gotten huge raises in recent years, while writers make a fraction of what they used to make,” Heath adds. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living as a writer - and that has to change.”