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Why One WGA Member Returned to the Picket Line 15 Years Later


Michael Tabb is experiencing déjà vu.

The old writer, whose credits include those from 2012 Werewolf: the beast among us, returned to the Disney property in Burbank, California, on Tuesday for what is now his second time hitting the picket lines in support of the Writers Guild of America. Tabb, who previously served as strike captain at Disney during the 2007-2008 strike, has been a member of the guild since 2005 and credits the 11,000-member organization for “protecting” him when writing opportunities dried up.

“I’ve actually been homeless for four years between gigs,” he said The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday while walking the picket line in Burbank. “The Writers Guild protects me. If I get a guild job, I can support myself. And if I can’t, then I can’t.”

Before the WGA strike, Tabb was working on a TV show with an independent production company and writing his passion project, which he says is about how people treat others and how the hippies of the 1970s influence the modern age.

On Tuesday, Tabb carried a sign that read, “Writers got paid better in the days of VHS,” referring to the 1988 WGA strike that lasted more than 150 days. “In the days of VHS, we actually made a better percentage of residuals and payments than we did on DVD,” he said. “In 1988 things went wrong when we tried to strike for equal pay. Then we finally came (to) streaming in 2007, which was the last strike, but we weren’t quite ready for fair wages. Now we fight for fair wages so that we can all really make a living from writing and feed and house ourselves.

One of the central issues proposed by the WGA is to increase the number of writers working on each show and keep them employed for longer periods of time, while ending the wave of so-called “mini-rooms” in which studios/ streamers hire a small number of scribes for a short period of time without any guarantee of future work.

Tabb said THR that he “had some early success” and “thought everything was going to be great”. After consulting with his accountant, Tabb bought a house for his wife and three children. And a few years later everything changed. “Work dried up and I was homeless. I lost my house and I had three children and a wife who depended on me and they all had to live with their parents and I stayed on the street to find work.”

Tabb said he spent time teaching to make ends meet and ran into one of his former students – a fellow WGA member – on Tuesday where his comments about previous strikes garnered support from his fellow creatives.

“Most screenwriters are independent contractors, meaning we are hired to do a job. It can take two months; it may take two weeks. It might take six months if we’re lucky on a TV show, but that’s it. And then we’ll have to find another job,’ he said.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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