Hollywood Writers Expected to Settle In for Long Strike

05 May 2023

Hollywood writers went on strike this week to demand higher pay and job security. The labor action forced an immediate suspension of late-night television shows and other programs and projects.

The writers' labor action is the first Hollywood strike in 15 years.

The union Writers Guild of America (WGA) is seeking higher minimum pay, more writers per show and less exclusivity on single projects, among other demands. The 11,500-member Guild argues that all the demands concern conditions that have worsened since the huge growth in streaming media.

Members of the the Writers Guild of America picket outside Fox Studios on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Los Angeles, California.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Members of the the Writers Guild of America picket outside Fox Studios on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Los Angeles, California.(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

"Everything's changed, but the money has changed in the wrong direction," said Kelly Galuska. The 39-year-old is a writer for The Bear, an FX show and Big Mouth, a program on Netflix. She was among striking workers who demonstrated at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. "It's a turning point in the industry right now. And if we don't get back to even, we never will," she said.

The last Hollywood strike, from the same union in 2007 and 2008, took three months to settle. There are no talks planned between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP. It represents studios and production companies that employ the writers.

"We'll stay out as long as it takes," said Josh Gad. He is a writer for shows including Central Park and an actor in films including Frozen. Gad spoke from the Fox picket line.

An AMPTP statement said the organization presented an offer with "generous increases in compensation for writers." It said leaders were also prepared to improve the offer but were put off, it said, "because of the magnitude of other proposals" the WGA was presenting.

The writers expected to go on strike. Negotiations over a new contract ended suddenly hours before the time limit passed for an agreement to be reached. The reality of a strike left some people surprised, some worried, and some determined.

"When I saw the refusals to counter and the refusing to even negotiate by the AMPTP, I was like on fire to get out here and stand up for what we deserve," said Jonterri Gadson. She is a writer whose credits include A Black Lady Sketch Show. On a picket line at Amazon Studios, she held a sign that said, "I hate it here."

New productions of top late-night shows were cancelled. That is because the striking writers are the ones who write jokes for the shows' hosts. Instead, television chiefs made plans for reruns for the rest of the week.

NBC's comedy show, Saturday Night Live, which had been set to broadcast a new program Saturday, will air a rerun instead. The two remaining programs in the season might be cancelled.

The strike's effect on weekly series and films will likely take longer to see.

If the strike continues through the summer, plans for autumn television programming could be affected. Right now, shows for which the writing has been completed are permitted to continue with production.

Streaming has led to an explosion in the number of series and film productions made each year. That has meant more jobs for writers. But writers say they make less money under insecure conditions. The WGA described the new environment as "a gig economy inside a union workforce."

Economic activity involving temporary or freelance work is often called a gig economy.

The AMPTP said terms necessary to reach a deal involve so-called mini rooms. Industry publications say mini rooms are similar to temporary writing jobs that can prevent writers from taking other jobs. Writers want a minimum number of them. How long employment contracts last is another issue being negotiated.

Writers are also seeking more rules about the use of artificial intelligence.

I'm Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

minimum – adj. to lowest possible number or amount

exclusivityn. the state of being limited in number, amount or use

streaming – n. a service for television shows and movies that is available continuously over the internet

studio –n. a company that makes movies and television shows

picket line –n. a group of people who are on strike and who form a barrier in front of their place of work to bring attention to their cause

generous –adj. providing more than the amount that is needed

compensation –n. pay and other benefits for working

magnitude –n. the size or seriousness of something

determined –adj. willing to work hard to get what you want

comedy –n. a kind of show that is meant to make people laugh