Everything you need to know about the Writers Guild of America strike

By Lucy Verlaque

Elm Staff Writer

For decades, the entertainment industry provided millions of Americans with a diverse range of media in film, television, radio, and print. Now, thanks to streaming services, movies and television shows are even more accessible for consumers.

However, according to Variety, as the majority of revenue generated by streaming goes to the companies that own the platforms, writers feel they are not fairly compensated for their creative work. Between unfair wages and poor treatment from studios, writers felt pressured to make a change in their work environment.

The Writers Guild of America is a union representing these writers that “negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members,” according to WGA East. They bargain with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a trade association representing production companies.

According to Forbes, WGA announced on March 7 that “nearly 99% of its members voted in favor of demands that included calls for increased compensation, better residuals, staffing requirements, protections from artificial intelligence job interference and more.”

Negotiations between WGA and AMPTP began on March 20 and continued for two months without any agreements made.

On April 17, WGA “passed a strike authorization vote with 97.85% voting in favor, giving union leadership the power to call a strike” upon the contract’s expiration in May, according to Variety.

Plans to finally put the strike into action were announced on May 1 via the WGA On Strike website. The following day, writers began picketing in front of various entertainment studios, including Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros.

In the months since, other unions have shown their support for WGA, including the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA).

Following their own contract negotiations with AMPTP, SAG-AFTRA joined WGA on the picket line on July 13 after failing to reach a satisfactory agreement, according to Forbes.

Many actors are unhappy with the unfair split in revenue generated by their work. Actor Sean Gunn, who played the character Kirk on the hit show “Gilmore Girls,” is on the picket line specifically to protest Netflix.

“[‘Gilmore Girls’] get streamed over and over and over again, and I see almost none of the revenue that comes into that,” Gunn said in a TikTok video.

Gunn believes streaming platforms must “share the wealth more with the people who have created the content that has gotten them rich.”

Journalist, film producer, and writer Amy Güth, who visited Washington College to speak at the Rose O’Neill Literary House on Sept. 5 and 6, lives in Los Angeles and has been able to see the strike up close.

“A lot of actors and writers I know are eager to get back to work, but want to get it right,” Güth said. “[They] realize that it’s an opportunity to come out on the other side of it with a more fair and equitable contract.”

Being involved in the industry herself, Güth is in full support of the strike and believes their demands should be met, an attitude most entertainment industry workers seem to share.

“Any time the business model changes and adapts, the industry needs to change and adapt with it in order to pay people a fair and livable wage,” Güth said.

Assistant Professor and Chair of Communication and Media Studies Dr. Meghan Grosse said that some independent studios have agreed to the terms SAG-AFTRA demanded, thus allowing union members to resume working with them.

“If these small companies with significantly less wealth than those included in the AMPTP can afford to meet these demands, then it’s worth asking why those organizations in AMPTP are not willing to make the same concessions,” Dr. Grosse said.

The strike reached its hundredth day on Aug. 9. According to Forbes, “the failure to reach an agreement cost California’s economy” $3 billion by that point.

As of September, the strike is still going strong and tensions between WGA and AMPTP remain high. It is unclear how long negotiations might continue.

Despite the uncertainty, Güth believes the unions have power in their numbers and can make a lasting impact on the industry.

“Throughout history, some of the biggest changes that we’ve ever seen have come from groups of people that came together to make a change, and that matters,” Güth said. “To me, it really just speaks to the broader power of community, of what people are able to do when they’re together.”

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