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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Hollywood strike shows the importance of unions

(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Cast and writers from “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” pose on a picket line on Aug. 29 outside Sony Pictures studios in Culver City, California. The film and television industries remain paralyzed by Hollywood’s dual actors and screenwriters strikes. Pictured are Patrick Fabian (from left), Rhea Seehorn, Norma Maldonado, Aaron Paul, Peter Gould, Betsy Brandt, Matt Jones, Charles Baker, Jesse Plemons and Bryan Cranston. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Hollywood is often depicted as a bunch of spoiled rich people getting into trouble, stirring up drama and furthering the idea of capitalism. However, the Hollywood strike is a time to prove the misconception wrong, showing audiences they are still people and demand what is right for their careers.

Thousands of actors, actresses and writers are on strike in Hollywood, fighting against inequality and a future controlled by Artificial Intelligence. Those working in the entertainment industry deserve fair compensation in the changing industry. 

The Writers Guild of America first went on strike this year on May 2. After nearly three months of striking, WGA was joined by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the actors union. 

The outbreak of streaming services has greatly affected how writers and actors are paid for their work. As the budgets for series have grown with the popularity of streaming, the writers and actors are making a smaller share of income.

On average, a California actor makes about $27 an hour, according to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Additionally, it should be noted that actors do not get paid all throughout the year, there are times when they are between writing jobs or movies when they do not have a source of income. 

“Writers are facing the most comprehensive assault on compensation and working conditions that they have seen in a generation,” according to WGA. “The studios have taken advantage of the transition to streaming to underpay entertainment industry workers, including writers in every area of work. Like too many working people across our economy, as corporate profits grow, writers are just not keeping up” 

One perfect example of the effect streaming has had on writers and actors is the Warner Brothers show, “Gilmore Girls.” The show originally aired from 2000 to 2007 and was fairly popular. However, once Netflix purchased the show in 2014, “Gilmore Girls” reached a new level of success. Unfortunately, the individuals involved in creating the show have not been able to experience the same success that Netflix has. 

Actor Sean Gunn, known for his role as Kirk in “Gilmore Girls,” is among the writers and actors on strike. Gunn and other actors demand better residuals from streaming services, like Netflix. 

“Netflix doesn’t pay residuals to the actors, so there is no sharing in the success of a show with Netflix,” Gunn said in a video on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It’s true that they pay a licensing fee to Warner Brothers, and then Warner Brothers pay residuals from that licensing fee which is a very small amount, particularly for a show that’s been off the air for a long time. When the show is a huge success, and generates millions of dollars in profits for Netflix, we don’t share in any of that.” 

Streaming media companies need to pay residuals to actors and writers for their work on shows and movies. Both writers and actors put a great deal of time and effort into creating pieces of entertainment for their audiences, and they deserve to have compensation that reflects their work. 

Streaming services have already been affecting writers, but when the recent inflation is taken into account, their situation is even worse. 

In 2018, after adjusting for inflation, the pay for screenwriters decreased by 14%. Writer-producer’s pay has decreased by 23%, reported CBS

The current Hollywood strike is a perfect example of why unions are essential for working people. 

“The main reason for a union is to make sure that their members are treated fairly and equitable, with regards to the terms and conditions of their employment,” said NIU Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Bárbara González. 

Unions are not only good for employees but also for institutions. 

“For an institution, you are working hard about being fair and equitable, and taking care of all those employment issues that could arise,” González said. “Having a collective bargaining agreement clarifies the terms of employment for everybody, both for the members and for the administrators trying to do work within the contract.” 

For an entire union to go on strike, something must be seriously wrong. The issue with the Hollywood strike is that times are changing, and unfortunately, corporate leaders are not ready to change their practices with it. 

Ideally, employees and the institution they work for want the same things. For example, NIU as an institution and its staff want to see students succeed even though there might be different views of how to accomplish the goal. 

“We’re all aiming for the same thing. For the academic unions in particular, you know, we are all aiming for student success,” González said. “We might have different ways of looking at it, and that’s where the negotiation needs to happen, but our ultimate goal is the same.” 

With actors and writers versus streaming services, they all want to see their work succeed, but they disagree on who should share in that success and by how much. 

There is no denying that the entertainment industry is cutthroat, but that doesn’t mean it is OK to ignore the needs of others. 

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