Understanding the 2023 Writers Strike
By: Caitlin Hamilton
If you find yourself counting down the days until the new season of your favorite
TV series premieres, then this article may be for you. On May 2nd, The Writers Guild of
America, which is composed of TV and film writers across the country, announced that
they will be conducting a general strike and halting writing new material.
Creators from streamer favorites such as Emily in Paris and Stranger Things have already announced that they will be delaying production on their upcoming seasons due to the strike. This is the first Hollywood strike since 2007. Why, you may ask? Why are writers striking now after production sets were finally returning to a consistent schedule after the Covid-19 pandemic? And what does this mean legally? Well, since the last strike in 2007, platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, and HBO streaming services have gained increased popularity. Cable shows that used to run for several seasons are now few and far between when compared to binge-able, often shorter-seasoned streaming shows. Thus, writers who had a consistent gig for years during the Cable-era are now left fighting for consistency and are often moving from job to job. In addition, writers are now concerned with receiving residual payments from episodes that can be watched more than once on a streaming service, similar to how reruns air on cable television. When reruns air on cable networks, writers from that show receive royalties. However, there is no consistent framework in place for writers when episodes are watched several times on streaming services. Hence, writers are receiving fewer wages over time as compared to residuals received from cable networks.
Actors such as Tina Fey, Rob Lowe, Mark Ruffalo, and many others have come out to the picket line to show their support for the writers on strike. Fortunately for the writers, employers cannot sue union writers for breach of contract while the writers are on strike. However, if a writer chooses not to return to a contracted gig after the strike ends, an employer may then choose to sue for breach of contract. That said, employers are not completely out of luck. Employers may choose to fill vacant positions with new writers. However, this is often an undesirable option, as audiences of beloved shows are not always receptive to the content of less-seasoned writers.
Whether you're in support of the strike or not, writers across the country risk not returning to a job at all, as The Supreme Court has held that employers may eliminate or fill job positions while writers are on strike. Whether you're a streamer fan, cable fan, or both, if you're a lover of film and television then this strike is expected to affect how you fill your spare time.