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Wanda Sykes, Joel Kim Booster, Lilly Wachowski, other LGBTQ+ stars support writers’ strike

Writers Guild of America, strike, WGA, LGBTQ+ stars
WGA members on strike in 2008 Photo: Shutterstock

LGBTQ+ writers, creators, producers, and actors are rallying support for members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). The union, which represents TV and film writers, is currently on strike, after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios and production companies, ended Monday night without an agreement.

The WGA’s primary demands have to do with compensation. The shift to streaming — which has had a seismic impact on almost every area of the entertainment business — has radically changed the way screenwriters are paid. Your average screenwriter is essentially a gig worker, taking jobs in the writers’ rooms of shows as long as those shows last before looking for other work. Traditional network series often aired around 22 episodes per season, meaning jobs lasted longer.

But from the outset, streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu ordered fewer episodes per season for their original scripted series, and in recent years cable networks have moved toward the same model for their prestige shows. Fewer episodes mean shorter gigs and less money for writers, most of whom live in cities like Los Angeles or New York where the cost of living has skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, studios are hiring fewer writers for less money, increasing competition for lower-paying gigs. And residuals — the money writers earned when shows or films aired in reruns and syndication, or were released on DVD —have essentially evaporated in the age of streaming. It should probably go without saying that plenty of LGBTQ+ writers have been affected by these changes.

“The companies have used the transition to streaming to cut writer pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels,” the WGA wrote in a report released in March. “On TV staffs, more writers are working at minimum regardless of experience, often for fewer weeks, or in mini-rooms, while showrunners are left without a writing staff to complete the season. And while series budgets have soared over the past decade, median writer-producer pay has fallen.”

As Vulture reports, the guild is demanding increased minimum compensation in all areas of media, increased residuals, appropriate TV series-writing compensation from pre- to post-production, increased contributions to pension and health plans, the strengthening of professional standards, and overall protections for writers.

When the WGA and AMPTP were unable to reach an agreement by the Monday night deadline, the WGA notified its members that they would be striking.

Today, as writers picketed outside studios in Los Angeles and New York, some of Hollywood’s biggest LGBTQ+ power players were among those voicing their support and drawing attention to the WGA’s demands.

“Here we go again,” tweeted Wanda Sykes along with a photo of herself picketing during the last WGA strike in 2007.

On Instagram, Search Party co-creator Charles Rogers and Schitt’s Creek co-creator Dan Levy were among the celebs reposting the WGA’s strike announcement in their stories. Levy also reposted a pic of the AMPTP’s rejection of a WGA proposal to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (AI), another major issue in negotiations.

Writers Guild of America, strike, LGBTQ+ celebrities

“I love how the studios are like, ‘nope, don’t wanna regulate AI. But we’ll schedule a meeting,’” Pose writer and director Steven Canals tweeted. “Didn’t they do the same thing yrs ago with the internet, and now look where we are with streaming…”

“Very demoralizing,” SNL’s Bowen Yang wrote over a photo of the WGA’s proposals alongside the AMPTP’s counteroffers in his Instagram stories.

Dear White People writer/director Justin Simien re-posted a photo of a WGA picket sign that read, “We’re asking for less than one Fox News settlement,” referring to the $787.5 million the conservative network was recently agreed to pay Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation suit.

Writers Guild of America, strike, LGBTQ+ celebrities
Writers Guild of America, strike, LGBTQ+ celebrities

“The WGA strike is a good time to bring attention to the bigger problem with the entertainment industry,” tweeted comedian and co-creator of the HBO series Los Espookys Ana Fabrega. “It overworks and underpays virtually all workers on productions from Teamsters to IATSE members.”

“Film and television can give us a sense of what’s possible, remind us of horrors we dare not repeat, and is often the way many of us first discover ourselves. I LOVE writing, telling stories, giving hope. These guys want to get rewarded for making rich shareholders even richer,” Mayfair Witches star Jen Richards tweeted along with an infographic showing eight studio CEOs and their 2022 salaries.

“CEOs are high level button pushers who create nothing and make millions doing it. You should take that personally,” tweeted Fire Island writer and star Joel Kim Booster.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski simply posted English singer-songwriter and activist Billy Bragg’s song “There is Power In a Union.”

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