I wrestled with writing my blog this week. The Writer’s Guild of America is on strike, and while I am not a member of that union, I am a member, and proud to be, of the National Writers Union. I made the decision to write my blog this week because I believe in the power of words to change people’s minds.
Strikes come about because there has been a build-up of inequity. I know that “equity” is a buzz word currently being thrown around. For purposes of this blog, “equity” means fairness. And writers have a long history of being treated unfairly.
From Tablets to Press
How do I know what I am talking about? To state the obvious, it is because someone wrote about it. I am not talking about “proof” or “facts”. I am just pointing out that someone, somewhere wrote something down and because of that act of creativity, there is a record of what s/he said.
Possibly the greatest form of revolution is writing. Possibly the greatest form of liberation is learning to read. Knowledge is power. This has never been more true than in today’s world of digital press and AI.
There are many reasons that workers go on strike; working conditions (think Norma Rae) and unfair labor practices (think Amazon), to name two. The worker has something of value and the employer wants to make a profit using that source. When both are working together, the employer makes a profit and the worker makes a living. This is a good thing.
When the gap between profits and making a living gets too wide, people feel taken advantage of. In the current strike, the way studios make profits off of entertainment has changed. There no longer is a “TV Season”. No longer is there a guarantee of 22 weeks of work plus residuals. Today, even an established writer might find him (sadly it is still mostly dominated by males) self – going months, even years without a steady paycheck.
What’s In it for Me?
You are consuming a product when you watch a movie or TV show. It really doesn’t matter how you are watching it – in your living room, in a movie theater, or on your tablet – you are still consuming the product. If you like it, you might start to want more; maybe even come to expect to see a lot more, or even better, watch it again and again.
Studios are in the business of providing you with that product. They will do everything in their power to get you to watch. They make their money off selling you their product over and over again. They may sell it to you via a streaming platform or through a rental or subscription or by distributing it around the world.
What you need to understand is that each time the studio “sells” the product, they make money. But the creator of that product essentially gets paid once. End result – studio profits are up by 39% over the last 10 years, but writers’ salaries have dropped by 4% (Guardian).
Write and Grow Rich!
It wasn’t all that long ago that writers had clear paths to making a living. You could write for a news organization, write the Great American Novel and find a publisher, or write a script for TV, the movies, or Broadway. Those paths have disappeared, and now there are fewer journalists, publishing has become a free-for-all, and making it in performing arts remains the challenge it has always been.
Most writers are NOT in it for the money. Many of us have dreams of making it big, but the odds are long. In spite of knowing that, writers persist. And because of that, new venues for writers continue to spring up. Just look at the proliferation of blogs, platforms (Medium, Stack), and email newsletters!
The Fundamental Goal
With the advent of artificial intelligence and ChatGBT, writers may become obsolete, but somehow, I doubt it. Writers write. That seems to be consistent across the ages. Where words are marketable, those who produce a high-quality product are deserving of being paid a living wage.
The old ways of doing things change. Yet the fundamental goal remains the same; get paid a decent wage that permits you to make a decent living with a decent profit for the employer. That seems fair. That’s why I stand with my fellow writers in the Writers Guild and support them in their strike.