As a union supporter from a union family, I hope all of you will join me in this statement: Screw the Writers Guild of America. Yeah, I said it. Screw them. They are greedy, selfish and destructive. They care for themselves and no one else. They have put thousands of union members out of work and do not care for their fellow union brothers. And I am not talking about their own members, which have lost nearly $200 million in wages since they have gone on strike, but also the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and other unions who work for the industry. Hollywood is one of the most generous employers in the world, and the writers have a lot of nerve to strike.
According to the WGA, the average writer makes $204,000 yearly. They get next-to-free health care, fully funded pensions and residuals for every time one of their movies is sold or television shows rerun. This is at a time when most employers are cutting health care and dropping pension plans. Under the current deal, if a DVD sells 1 million copies, the writer gets an extra $64,800 on top of what they were paid for the script. The script for “The Island,” which helped lead to the buyout of DreamWorks, sold for half a million dollars. Many top movies sell at least 5 million copies. As for the WGA president, he gets paid $600,000 a year – three times that of the President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, more commonly known as the AFL-CIO. I could understand a union going on strike for health benefits or to stop a significant cut in wages, but not to add to their hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So what do the writers want? They want double what they are getting for their DVD sales. They want more money for Internet downloads. They want to get paid based on the value an independent arbiter gives to a movie instead of the market value of the good. Finally, they want the producers to force animation and reality TV writers to be under their jurisdiction. The last one is illegal. Only the workers can decide to join a union, not the management. On top of that, those writers are already unionized, and are represented under IATSE.
So, other than trying to steal IATSE’s membership, how are the writers hurting IATSE members? Well for one, 40,000 of the 100,000 members are already out of work. Many more will be out of work as more and more TV production shuts down due to a lack of writers. IATSE members build the sets, film the shows, edit the films, design the sets, set up the electrical work and unload the trucks. They do not get paid residuals. They see no reason for it. According to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the average movie industry worker gets paid just under $70,000. Compare this to the WGA, which claims their average worker makes $200,000, with more than half their membership earning over $100,000 a year. IATSE members are hurting because of this strike. According to AMPTP, IATSE workers in Los Angeles alone have lost over $300 million in wages since the strike began.
I am not a fan of management. I almost always support unions. However, as the son of an IATSE member and a supporter of unions, I cannot support a union that forces thousands out of work and puts an entire city at a standstill. Let’s just get this straight – the producers are far from greedy. IATSE members get full health insurance, their own hospitals and a fully funded pension. The writers, directors and actors who are employed have the same. Hollywood is far from greedy. The greed title is reserved for those in the WGA. Members getting those wages and benefits have a lot of nerve to put tens of thousands out of work. So next time you see WGA members picketing, do not honk. Instead, roll down your window and give them the finger.