Thank God for the writers’ strike


On May 2, the Writers Guild of America ceased its activities and went on strike. After years of stagnating compensation and job insecurity due to AI, the hand of Hollywood writers was forced as upper management refused to ratify a new bargaining agreement in time. On July 14, the WGA was joined by SAG-AFTRA, the actors’ union. The members of both unions voted over 97 percent in favor of a strike; frustration with production companies had reached a tipping point.
The dismissal of workers’ concerns and open cruelty by Hollywood bosses has been shocking, but not surprising. One executive quoted in Deadline Hollywood said, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a tactic described as a “cruel but necessary evil.”
The audacity. The CEOs, who do not do the acting, the writing or the editing, yet somehow take home most of the money, would sooner make people homeless than provide better working conditions. They admit their actions are cruel and evil, but they are not at all disturbed. The only thing that disturbs them is a drop in profits.
Let’s not forget that better working conditions are indeed what these workers are striking for, because the anti-union mainstream media is out to paint them as nothing more than a mischievous cadre of banditti. Fox News quoted a Paramount CEO as saying that the strikes would cause the “absolute collapse” of Hollywood. On the other side of the spectrum, the putatively liberal The Week magazine described striking workers as “No shows” on the cover of its July 28 issue, lambasting striking film workers for not doing the work they should be doing.
That’s the first reason I’m so grateful for this strike: It has exposed the entitlement that so many in society, especially those with means, feel when it comes to entire sectors of labor. It is taken for granted that certain workers cater to our needs. Firefighters must put out fires, delivery drivers must bring us food, and actors must entertain us — and when they refuse to, anger and disrespect for these workers is justifiable.

The reality is, their labor was never ours to take for granted. It will always be the case that “essential workers” are offering their labor in exchange for just compensation and fair treatment, and that at any moment that labor could be withdrawn. There is no “required labor,” and the strike has brought this into focus.
The second reason that I’m grateful for the strike is that it offers all of us a refreshing break. Media consumption has been on the rise in recent years, and my question is, are we watching these media for entertainment, for enlightenment, for enjoyment? Or are we trying to numb the pain? The perpetual rewatching of old clips already seen; watching our fifth identical dating show. Are we truly immersing ourselves in entertainment, or are we immersing ourselves in audio-visual stimuli to cut off the volume of our brains?
I think too many of us, myself included, have fallen into the second category. This cultural tsunami is the 21st-century equivalent of cocaine and alcohol, to distract us from the difficult questions confronting us.
Your boss yelled at you again today. You don’t think it’s fair, but it’s easier to click on the remote. You don’t like the news, so you indulge in fantasies. All around you, it seems, the world is swirling. Deep down, you feel it may be best to confront it, but snuggling up in your sheets sounds good, too.
It’s comforting to retreat. It’s also mollifying, and when you’re mollified you cannot shape your world. When many people are mollified, you cannot band together and face the tasks that require the efforts of many people. The good striking workers have said, “Enough of that!” and plunged us into cold water. We are afforded a short respite to unplug and consider the world around us.
Keep at it, Hollywood workers. I’m with you, and so are others. You are fighting for a good cause, and in fighting for yourselves you fight for us. You have given us all much to think about. Our TVs may be dark for some time, but it is the darkest skies that have the brightest stars.

Matthew Adarichev is a public policy major at Hofstra University, a political activist and an aspiring journalist whose work has appeared in the Hofstra Chronicle and the Anton Media Group.