Walking down Fifth Avenue this summer, I was greeted with the normal sights and smells of New York City. Tourists bustled about the iconic avenue, snapping pictures of historic New York artifacts like the Empire State Building and the public library. If you walked all the way up to 5th and 49th, you would usually be greeted with the sight of Rockefeller Center in all its glory. This summer was different. 30 Rock was basically shut down, and its employees were outdoors under the blazing summer sun picketing.
On May 2, the Writer’s Guild of America announced they would be going on strike. Their motivations were rooted in better pay, clearer contracts and the new threat of artificial intelligence. All production of television shows and movies was halted. Members of the WGA dropped their pens and went outdoors to partake in the decades-old tradition of striking.
What did this strike mean? Well, all writing for TV shows and movies immediately stopped. Filming for all projects also stopped. Without writing, there could be no filming. Since nothing was filming, actors across the country had no work. However, actors that are a part of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) stood in solidarity with the WGA. Throughout the month of June, rumors were spreading that SAG-AFTRA might follow suit and go on strike, as well. On July 14 this summer, SAG-AFTRA officially went on strike. Hollywood was at a standstill now. At this point, many actors and writers were refusing to do any press for upcoming TV shows or movies. This was done in solidarity with the strike. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions also posted a set of rules for their members to follow during the strike.
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at TV Guide Magazine. One of my tasks was to transcribe interviews with actors and screenwriters of TV shows. However, this summer, TV Guide had a shortage of interviews due to the strike. I remember some of the employees talking about how the strike was making their jobs a little harder. If there had been no strike, I would have gotten to sit in on some of the interviews. However, I never got to since there were rarely any interviews conducted. Even though I was upset that I never got to have that experience, I still supported the unions’ reasoning behind not participating in interviews.
As an amateur writer, I completely supported the WGA in their strike. Writers are extremely creative people who come up with the stories of our favorite TV shows and movies. Without them, we wouldn’t have the entertainment we have today. I certainly believe that they earn better pay as well as better contracts. I think streaming has 100% changed a writer’s job. For example, TV show writers used to write about twenty-two episodes a season. Now, they are writing at most ten episodes a season. On top of that, streaming services are canceling popular shows left and right, leaving writers and actors without a job! Basically, the main problem with this strike is the streaming companies. While streaming is extremely convenient, it hurts both the writers and the actors.
On Sept. 27, the WGA strike ended. After almost 150 days of striking, the writers finally returned to work. The writers finally have a pay raise and a fairer contract. The WGA released a statement on their website confirming that the union had reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. There is a 5% increase in wages for the writers, which is the largest win for the WGA. Staffing in the writer’s room has also increased, which is another great win. Now it is time for SAG-AFTRA to reach a fair agreement so that filming can resume.