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Morning Spew

The Writers of Your Favorite Shows Are on Strike

“If we were to cave in, this would be the last negotiation the Writers Guild would ever have. So we have to get what we need.”

8:47 AM EDT on May 3, 2023

Striking writers hold signs and picket in Midtown.

Writers on strike outside of NBC headquarters in Manhattan on Tuesday. (Hell Gate)

On the first day of a national strike by the Writers Guild of America, boisterous workers (many sporting Knicks hats) holding a mix of snappy signs picketed on Fifth Avenue outside of an NBC event meant to showcase an upcoming lineup of streaming shows. 

The writers' strike is their first since 2007, when workers walked out for three months and all but shut down late night TV, causing some of the big networks to suffer double-digit losses in viewership.

This work stoppage is centered on the streaming services. The vote to walk out was almost unanimous—98 percent of the union membership, which represents 11,500 writers across the country—as streaming has both created more jobs, but also led to worse pay for writers. Meanwhile, these entertainment companies are making record profits on the back of streaming and a resurgent box office post-pandemic.  

"We have tried for several weeks to negotiate in good faith with the studios, and not only did we not get our very reasonable demands, they are trying to chip away at an already tenuous way of life for writers," said Liz Hynes, a WGA captain and a writer for "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver."

Hynes explained how the TV studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, have countered the writer's proposals with a pitch to downgrade their already short-term contracts to daily gig work: "They told us, 'Fuck you, what if your job was Uber?'"

Comedian and writer Josh Gondelman pointed to shorter seasons on streaming, smaller writing rooms, and a greater share of writers working at the minimum salary as conditions that have made being a TV and film writer harder. Studios have argued that they have struggled to meet Wall Street expectations for their new streaming platforms.

"We just want a small slice of the giant corporate profits that we help generate, we want writing to stay sustainable, and this is a real, transformative, existential negotiation," Gondelman told Hell Gate. "The switch to streaming gave the big studios the opportunity to grab profits that should not belong to them."

Signs with slogans like "Live. Love. Stream. (And Pay Me)" and "Without Writers You Can't Finish This Si—" paraded in front of Scabby the rat, as cars blew their horns in support of the writers. 

In negotiations, writers have been pushing for more pay up front, in an attempt to offset the loss in residuals that used to come from syndication, but are now diminished because so many shows go straight to streaming.

No one on the picket line Hell Gate spoke to believed that the strike would have a quick end, with the studios having already stockpiled shows, and Netflix executives already planning on airing content made overseas

"We'll be here as long as it fucking takes," said Hynes. "The stuff that they're offering is truly career-annihilating, guild-shattering. If we were to cave in, this would be the last negotiation the Writers Guild would ever have. So we have to get what we need."

Here are some links to news stories that a worker had to write by hand/brain:

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