Thoughts on a WGA Strike

There’s a lot of talk out there about a WGA writer’s strike. The WGA and the producers are talking. They're not talking. Then talking again. The Union has asked for a strike authorization vote, something they NEED to have at the negotiation table by the way. It doesn’t mean they want a strike, it means the membership is standing together. A good thing.

I’ve never made it a secret, nor should I have, that I am NOT in the WGA yet. Everything I’ve done, I have done non-union. It’s just what’s been offered and what I’ve done. Will I join when I finally get a Union job? Damn skippy. Until then, I’m not there yet. And I’ve had a great career so far doing non-union jobs, I’m not going to hide that, but again I’ve also never been offered a Union job or sold a script to a Union shop.

I also believe in Union protection. And have since I became a member of SAG/Aftra over 20 years ago.

That said I want to give my personal perspective on a potential WGA writer’s strike as a non-member.

I completely support it if that’s what they vote for after negotiations fail. And if I’m in LA while it’s on, I’ll probably march with my friends who are members.

I also fervently hope it doesn’t happen at all. That cool heads will prevail on every side and a fair contract is pounded out.

The point, however, of this particular blog is not about whether a strike happens or not, but about non-union writers reaction to it. I want to be clear about this because for any writer you need to hear it:

This strike is NOT the way for you to break in. Period. To try and use the backs of the writers who blazed the way for you is the height of disrespect, first of all, and to think you can scab your way to success, secondly, is downright short sided and stupid.

Yes, you can maybe get something out of it for yourself in the short term, but long term? You’ve painted, rightfully, a big ass target on your back. And if you don’t think the Union won’t notice or know, you live in Fantasyland. Or remember? Yes, they will. As they should.

The WGA exists because of all the writers out there who’d write for free if they were given the chance. It exists because writers were taken advantage of in the infancy of the film and TV business and writers needed a way to collectively bargain for their rights. Otherwise, those big paydays you dream about as an unproduced screen or television writer? They wouldn’t exist at all. You need to thank and support these writers and the Union, not think of it as an opportunity.

Every writer, union or not, needs to make their own decisions on how they’d handle a work stoppage. I’ve made mine. I stand with my friends and the Union I am not yet a part of but fully expect to be in at some point in the future. As should you. Greed and selfishness for your own gain in a situation like this hurts everyone and in the long run, even you.

I get the producer’s side, too. They aren’t the enemy. Without them none of us have a job, union or not. And I understand any contract negotiation has to include a lot of posturing on both sides. My wish is no one is so intractable as to not come to an mutually agreed upon settlement.

Yep. I really hope there’s not a strike. I don’t want to see my friends suffer financially. I don’t want the industry to suffer. I don’t want my friends who are producers to go through this again. I don’t want to see the long term animosity the last strike caused. But if it happens?

Solidarity, baby.

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6 thoughts on “Thoughts on a WGA Strike

  1. Pea Woodruff

    Amen, Bob. If aspiring screenwriters want to see opportunity here, it lies in acting like a professional through supporting those on strike.

  2. Chris

    I understand the sentiment of “standing in solidarity” with the WGA for non-guild members, but what does that mean specifically? Does it mean not writing? Does it mean not meeting with producers? Is it simply “I won’t sell anything during the strike, even though I am not in the guild?” Your post, which I agree with entirely, btw, is vague in terms of what solidarity means, especially for those of us in TV. This is by no means a disagreement with the sentiment, I was just hoping you could point out the type of behavior that would “paint a target” on the back of someone. Specifically, I have a pilot out to producers this week… I’m not in the guild, although I have been in the past… what happens if there’s a strike and my pilot is making the rounds? Legitimately curious here, not trying to rock the boat!

    1. BobSaenz

      Post author

      What I mean is I do not accept or go after Union jobs while the strike is on. I don’t take non-union jobs from Union shops or their non-union subsidiaries. And it does mean, to me, not meeting with producers who produce union work or have in the past. I will not take any job that could have gone to a union writer, period. But that said…. Until a strike, if there even is a strike, I’m going to act like it’s not going to happen and keep getting my stuff out there just like the union writers are getting their stuff out there now. I have no idea what happens if your pilot is making the rounds… (I have stuff making rounds right now, too) but, if they LOVE it they can wait until the strike is over, I assume. There are so many variables that I have no clue how it might affect each writer and YOU need to make your decisions based on what you want to do personally. I won’t take advantage of the situation. That’s my decision.

      1. Chris

        Thank you, Bob, for the response, and best of luck. I agree 100% that taking jobs from union shops is deplorable, and I’d never consider doing that, but I’m mixed on not talking with signatory producers during a strike provided nothing is being sold. For instance, my managers are also WGA signatory producers, although not producers on my work, so does that mean I can’t speak with my managers during a strike? Will this hold true for WGA members themselves?

        And look, I am wondering about this stuff as a person who marched every day during the ’07 strike (I was even in Burbank when presidential candidate John Edwards showed up… remember John Edwards?) despite not being in the guild at that point (I was a writers assistant, and knew that when the strike was up, I’d be in a position to join the guild). I still may have my red shirt around here somewhere. I am not advocating for scabbing, nor am I trying to bend over backwards to self-rationalize some possible future shadiness in regards to a strike that may or may not happen (I don’t think it will happen… stakes for the AMTPT simply too low this time around…. ’07 was a watershed moment due to the coming digital revolution that has resulted in the historic profits these companies are reaping now), I was just concerned to see language like “big ass target” painted on the backs of people who may not realize they deserve it, and curious as to how a person in a boat similar to mine may handle the rough seas ahead. I appreciate your take.

        All the best to you, and good luck!


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