What a world, right? It’s hard to care about the concerns of writers when the world is in such disorder. Undocumented people of the US and the citizens of Syria and Mosul have problems most of us can only imagine and even then not fully understand.
But we may strike. It’s happening. And I have more ground to stand on when expressing opinions on this than many of the things I spout off on.
There’s a lot of good writing on the strike. Duh. For the facts of this particular strike I refer you to the strike captain letter published here.
So I’ll just give you a few tidbits that have been rolling around in my brain, for what they’re worth.
I’ve heard anxiety that showrunners don’t care about the concerns of lower level writers around the strike. As somebody who will vocally support a strike if we can’t reach a reasonable agreement, I may have come off this way. And I’m sorry if I did. I know it will impact people in real, scary ways. My subconscious is also scared. Last night I had a dream that, because of financial worries, I took a sales job selling sparkling water (my boss was this kind of needy guy from “Married at First Sight” but that’s another story…) I think, as a showrunner who makes more money, I need to take those concerns seriously and make sure our Strike Fund for writers is generously funded. In addition, those of us with savings should reach out to people who might be struggling and make sure they don’t have to sacrifice one bit more than we do. And if you’re somebody who will face financial hardship over the strike, you deserve to feel supported by your union members. There is no shame in this. That is what unions should be about. Banding together for the common good.
Which brings me to my next point. Writers have taken a serious pay cut over the last few years. In a time when our industry is booming. This short-order business is a gift to our corporate bosses. They get better product for less.
This is where my blood boils — because it reflects the dark side of capitalism, which seems to be everywhere lately.
Corporations are expected to post gains every quarter, and the stock market goes up and up and up. But, really, there are only a few ways that’s endlessly possible. Two of them are corruption and exploitation of those less powerful.
Do you feel busy? More busy than is comfortable? Are you having trouble sleeping? Does it seem either heroic, irresponsible or weak to take a vacation?
I talk to more and more people who feel squeezed on all sides. And that, in part, is because as a nation we’re all are expected to do more for less. Because the folks who own a lot of the big businesses are expected to produce more for less. Because that stock market has to go up and up and up.
I realize this is over-simplification, but I think there’s truth in it. And the ugliest truth of all — most of the gains from all this productivity goes into the pockets of a very few, corpulent cats. The same (mostly male, mostly white) cats who are happy to lay waste to our environment, our people and our minds if it makes them a buck.
Many in the 1% of the 1% seem to believe in exceptionalism over all. It’s a dog eat dog world — and these cats are full of dog. They’ve eaten so much dog they’re pooping puppies. It’s ugly. It’s mean. And if we don’t fight back, it’s only going to get worse. Not just for writers. For everybody.
(That was a lot of cat and dog imagery. I give myself that note.)
My point is — we fight not just to protect our wages, our insurance and our share of the profits from what we’ve created — we fight because it’s the only way to take a stand against greed run amok and the damage it does to us all.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about, is why so many writers think “it looks bad” to “the public” to strike when many of us make a lot of money doing our jobs, and we’re fighting to keep making a lot of money. It seems like an elitist battle, one that has no place in the world when life is so hard for so many.
First — the world has been ending for as long as I’ve been alive. By that I mean, if we wait for a time to fight when everything is peachy… oh yeah, everything is never peachy. Things are good and bad and some guy is always walking around with a sign that says the end times are coming. Get used to it.
And more importantly, we make a lot of money because we create things that make a lot of money for our bosses. And for most writers, it’s not like we were born into it. We worked as assistants or waiters or sold sparkling water for that needy guy. We watched our friends take more traditional routes with “job tracks”. And we wrote — badly, betterly and then employable…ly. For most of us, the day we got in the Writer’s Guild of America was a big flipping day. It was the beginning of seeing our crazy gamble pay off after a lot of uncertainty and financial insecurity. Most of us took a huge risk to win big, so why are we embarrassed if we win big? And if you’re a woman, you get 10 extra points for having balls. If you’re a man of color, more points, more balls. If you’re a woman of color, even more. If you’re a LBGTQ woman of color with a disability you get all the points. You have all the balls.
And why do we win? Because every writer who works is an inventor. We make things with words that entertain people. Something unique that only we can create. And that thing can be super profitable. Can you imagine inventing a toy, say, that was wildly successful and having your boss come back, ask you to make more toys — and as a reward for your good work offer to pay you half?
Writers need to see their work as product. Product that has value. A product that they invent and get to share in any profit it makes.
Right? Why is that immoral? I bet the guy who invented the Pet Rock or the guy who wrote “Go the Fuck to Sleep” doesn’t lie awake at night cursing his good fortune. He’s like, yeah! I made that shit up and people liked it. I’m puppy poop level well off! Aren’t you sorry you didn’t think of it??
We make this shit up. Be proud. Be strong. Demand what’s yours.