Have you been scrolling on Instagram and noticed that the entire cast of your favorite show, Modern Family, has posted to share their support of the Writers Strike? Then you go to Twitter and recognize that actors like Jack Black, Pete Davidson, and Kerry Washington post about joining the picket lines and bringing protesters pizza. To top it all off, a notification announcing the postponement of the filming for the next season of Stranger Things because there is a lack of writers. But what is the Writers Strike, and why are all these celebrities and shows involved? If that's your question, then this is the article for you.
The Writers Strike is a protest that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) started on April 17, with a majority of 97.85 percent of the union approving. Then, on July 17, the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG_AFTRA) joined the strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) due to unfair working conditions. WGA and SAG_AFTRA have never been on a long-term strike at the same time before, emphasizing the importance of this movement and people's desire for change. Historically, WGA has held strikes that lasted 153 days in 1988 and, more recently, 100 days in 2007.
So what are the main issues, and what are the unions demanding? How the payment works when a member of WGA is that there is a Minimum Basic Agreement(MBA) that is a scale and varies based on the length of the script, if it's TV or theater, and the project's budget. In addition, it is customary that the MBA is changed every three years. Both groups are fighting for a higher MBA. In particular, SAG wants the minimum to increase by eleven percent in the first year and 4 percent in the following years. Though a big ask, it is more reasonable considering the money going to managers, agents, lawyers, taxes, and possibly co-writers.
The biggest concern is the payment. Projects, on average, have higher budgets now, but writers are still working the same minimum wage despite their experience. For instance, in 2013-2014, one-third of the WGA writers were paid minimum wage, but now almost half are working for minimum wage. Additionally, with streaming services and the increasingly rapid speed at which writers work, their compensation has yet to progress equally. Streaming series are shorter than in the past. Friends had 24 to 25 episodes for the first nine seasons, while popular streaming shows recently released, like Heartstoppers, have eight episodes. Since the scripts are shorter, it is challenging to maintain a steady job because projects end so quickly. Solving some of these issues might involve paying writers fair royalties alleviating the pressure of constant work. WGA also thinks it would benefit for part of writers' paychecks to go to their pensions and health care.
What would Jewish law say about this strike? Jewish law is very serious about treating your workers fairly and with respect. Deuteronomy (24:14-15) states, "Do not extort the wage of the poor and impoverished from among your kin." In that same verse, it says, "Each day you shall pay him his wage—the sun shall not rise upon it—for he is poor, and he has staked his life for it." Not only does the Torah understand the importance of treatment but also payment, explaining that not paying someone for their work is like taking his life. This verse relates to another issue: the strikers protest against mini rooms. These rooms start the creation of a series before the studio approves it, so it's not an official writers' room yet, which allows the producers to underpay the writers. Due to mini rooms and the unfair payment, Jewish law would back up the Writer's strike.
Despite all this support from the Torah and celebrities, what needs to happen is for this strike to end. The effects of this strike won't be noticeable by a lack of films for a year because most of them are already shot. The problems will be spotted earlier with TV shows because there will be a need for more new series, and soap operas and late-night shows have already stopped or will cease to exist. This strike is a possible economic issue. According to the New York Times, the last time a strike like this happened, 2.1 billion dollars were lost. Some people work in costumes, makeup, and even food suppliers that are struggling because many shows have been canceled or postponed. Even some WGA members want the strike to end because they must return to work. The first negotiations failed, but hopefully, the new ones that have started will end this strike and improve the lives of Hollywood workers.