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HomeEntertainmentWriters Strike Picket Line Takes Over Entire New York City Block

Writers Strike Picket Line Takes Over Entire New York City Block


The first picket line of the 2023 writers’ strike took up an entire New York City block Tuesday afternoon, with the WGA work stoppage officer and union strike plans in full effect.

Hundreds of writers representing all members of the WGA East marched on 5th Avenue, between 37th and 38th Streets, blocking the entrance to the Newfront presentation for Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service.

“This is seen as an existential moment for writers,” said writer, actor, producer and director Danny Strong The Hollywood Reporter on the picket line. “I think we’re very entrenched, and I think what we’re asking is fundamentally right and it’s a fundamental kind of honesty. There is more content than ever and yet writers’ salaries have dropped significantly as all these revenue streams have been eliminated.

“We feel that the current financial model for streaming in particular is unfair, that it needs to be adjusted,” Strong added. “It had to be edited three years ago, but then because of the pandemic, the writers kindly chose not to address the issues at the time, because it was such an unprecedented, upsetting time for the whole world. But these problems have only gotten worse for writers since then. Streaming has only gotten bigger. It will only take up a larger share of the market share and will dominate the industry for decades to come. So now is the time for us to get a fair share of the revenue from that.”

The scene outside 415 5th Ave, where Peacock held his Newfronts presentation.

Alexander Weprin

It was a concern echoed by Sasha Stewart, a member of the WGA East’s Leadership Council, and most recently a writer of Netflix’s Edit: The Fight for America.

“I think the AMPTP refused to discuss some of our most pressing issues because they want writing to stop being a career,” said Stewart. “They don’t want it to be a career. I think they want it to be a gig that you have once every few years, for a few days maybe, or a week or two at a time.”

“I think that’s what they want for directors. I think that’s what they want for actors and crew members as well,” Stewart added. “I think they don’t want people to actually be able to make a living creating the content that is so profitable for them.”

Josh Gondelman, a writer for Last week tonight with John Oliver And Desus & Merotold THR that, like other writers, he doesn’t “want to go on strike”, but that the energy for unions is “very high” right now because so much is at stake in terms of past wins and the future of the industry. “Everyone here is screaming and marching because it is so important to the future of not only us, but the people who come after us and the legacy of the people who came before us,” added Gondelman.

Patrick Coker, a lead writer for BETs Stories and supervising producer, said this was his first time saving as a Hollywood writer. However, he was on the picket line many times as a Verizon employee before joining WGA in 2017. It was an experience that prepared him for a long strike and means he won’t work in a production capacity until a deal is reached.

“Anytime you go on strike to get things you deserve, you suffer a little bit in the short term,” Coker said. “We’re going to struggle because we don’t have the pay, we could lose our health care — hopefully nothing catastrophic happens to your health in that time.” But you have to put it online, because if you don’t fight for them now, they will just disappear over time.”

And just like that… star Sara Ramirez also appeared on the line holding their own sign and promised they’ll be doing this for the long haul with the writers. “I’m prepared,” they said. “I really believe in the work of writers. The content we consume wouldn’t exist without our writers, and they deserve better contracts. So I am here in solidarity as a member of SAG-AFTRA, with my writers whom I love and respect so much.”

Coker – who said one of his main priorities in the strike was to prevent Hollywood from becoming a “gig economy” – admitted he wasn’t necessarily surprised by what happened at midnight on Tuesday, but told THR he hoped “that the companies would see the light and they would see that without us there is no content. Everything starts with a word on a page and We put the words on a page.”

For Gondelman, one of the main issues of the strike is how streamers “structure seasons and shows,” which he says are getting shorter and, as a result, there’s less long-term security in rooms that are getting smaller. “They’re making more content than ever, but writers’ wages with inflation have fallen quite a bit over the past 10 years. So this is like an existential threat, because not only do they keep wages low, but they also take away the security and stability that allows writers to live sustainably for a year and for a career.

Writers Strike NY

A protesting crowd outside 415 5th Ave on May 2.

Alexander Weprin

Ramirez told it too THR on the line that they disagree with how rooms are currently structured. “If you’re hiring writers, they better see all those scripts — every writer in that writer’s room better grab every script that comes out,” they say. “I don’t think it’s right to rent a writer’s room and then keep some of those writers out of the process. I know that happens – we in the system know what happens – and that’s not OK.”

Coker also pointed to the disparate treatment of writers by streamers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities, as a key issue. While streaming has expanded some opportunities for BIPOC and women scribes, he said it did not provide them with the same benefits and opportunities for advancement as their white predecessors did before the streaming realm.

“Streaming — new media — was the new frontier, but now it’s the main border and the way it opened up allowed more writers of color and more women to come in, but they’re kept in those lower positions and that’s a problem with streamers,” he said. “And with streaming, they have a room that runs from January to May. The show isn’t produced until you get fired in June and July, so you don’t get that experience producing, which means you can’t level up in the writers’ room.

Although the picket line didn’t seem to affect Peacock’s Newfront (one participant said THR that the room was full, with many people standing after all the seats were taken), it immediately became a destination for visitors. That’s what a tourist who visited New York from California said THR that when they heard of the strike, they adjusted their schedule to watch the picket line, with familiar faces like Strong, Dismissal‘s Zach Kers, The tonight show‘s Steve Higgins and Ramirez, along with members of SAG-AFTRA and IASTE.

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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