The Writer’s Strike started on May 2, 2023
After failing to reach negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began to strike on May 2nd, 2023 over concerns such as wages, AI and working conditions, specifically the topic of mini-rooms.
The Writers Guild of America consists of the Writers Guild of America, East and the Writers Guild of America, West. The two often combine efforts with larger activities such as what is happening now with the nationwide strike. Both coasts independently established themselves in 1954.
What are the issues?
The writers strike presents a multifaceted issue in which one concern finds itself melded into another concern. Wages are a top issue, specifically the residuals received from media that is streamed over services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. The issue of wages stems from and leads back to streaming as writers are paid for their time in the writer’s room as well as for residuals from when the show airs. Writers feel like they are spending more time in worse conditions while receiving a smaller share of the residuals compared to their counterparts in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
From writer rooms to mini-rooms
Mini-rooms seemingly spawned from the new streaming trend in which sessions oftentimes yield mini-series of six or eight episodes. Writers are expected to perform all of the work done in traditional writer’s rooms with everything else scaled back. Imagine laying the foundation of a house alone without knowing if the house would ever be completed. Writers used to be brought on to build houses. Now they are being brought on to build parts of a houses.
These new mini-rooms are smaller than the average writer’s room. They are meant to establish a smaller series in the same way traditional rooms did while receiving less pay and working with less people. The mini room culture also keeps these skeleton crews of writers on payroll for less time. It is easy to see how these factors combined can destroy the livelihood of a writer. In addition to this, some mini-room writings are never used, leaving the writer without a sense of job security.
Mini rooms are writers rooms
On the official union site, the WGA reminds its members that mini-rooms are writers rooms, period. This is presumably in reaction to producers often using mini-rooms to transform writers into gig-workers. With writers working short, unreliable stints for minimum pay. The article states that “your pay should reflect your experience and title”, a known issue in the gig-economy.
The last writer’s strike was on November 5th 2007 and lasted until February 8th, 2008
The last writer’s strike received support from the former SAG, Screen Actor’s Guild which merged with the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists in late March 2012 to create the SAG-AFTRA and resulted in increased wages for writers. With this strike, writers are bargaining with new players like Netflix at the table. This will ultimately adjust the dynamics of the bargaining as platforms and mediums have changed in the past 15 years.
AI another issue in strike
Another large concern is the issue of AI software such as ChatGPT which have proved to be a powerful force in almost every industry from music to art. Writers want the assurance that they will not be replaced by AI in the future with guarantees that Minimum Basic Agreement materials will not be used to train AI. We will see if AI crosses picket lines but as of now the AMPTP has rejected this request by the WGA.
How will I be affected?
At home viewers have already seen their favorite late night talk shows begin to show to show reruns. Big Mouth (Cartoon Network) and Abbott Elementary have also closed their writer rooms.
Where do things stand so far?
This may look to be a long strike as according to a document released on May 1st, 2023. The WGA and the AMPTP must still work out key issues. The AMPTP for now rejecting many of WGA’s offers.