Dispatches From The Picket Lines, Day 35: As Writers Take On Apple, WGA Chiefs React To DGA Deal
Apple may have entered the virtual reality arena earlier today with the unveiling of a new platform and headset, launched with the help of Disney boss Bob Iger, but in the real world it spent the day being targeted by writers.
The WGA decided to leaflet outside Apple’s HQ as well as in various cities including LA, New York and Washington, DC.
In LA, a slew of writers went from protesting outside of Television City to The Grove, where Apple has one of its stores and handed out information about the strike to consumers interested in new iPhones and laptops.
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Former WGA West President David Goodman told Deadline that it targeted Apple because the union’s ask would be a “drop in the bucket in terms of what they earn in a year”. The guild noted that its proposals would cost the company, which has annual revenues of around $400B, around $17M a year.
“If they want to be a company that hires writers, they’ve got to pay us what we’re asking,” added Goodman. “We wanted to give a special day to [show] Apple customers, here’s this company that has a reputation of treating creators well, that’s mistreating the creators of the television movies that they put on their platform.”
Chris Keyser, who is co-chair of the WGA’s negotiating committee, agreed. “We’re leafletting Apple to point out to people that these companies whose public face is warm and creativity forward, they behave exactly the opposite when they deal with their own employees and particularly with us,” he told Deadline.
“Our ask of $17M a year is a rounding error on a rounding error [for Apple],” he added.
Keyser, who exec produced series such as Julia and Party of Five, added that the streamers didn’t invent the short order season. “People mistake the beginning of problems for writers with the beginning of short order seasons. It’s not really true. There were shorter seasons for a lot of years on cable and premium cable, and we did okay. Change really was when the tech companies came into the business, Netflix, Amazon and Apple. That’s when they began to apply a kind of productivity and efficiency standard to creativity that have no place in this business and have no regard for the way television and movies get made. Since that time, the life of writers has become almost untenable,” he said.
THE DGA DEAL
Keyser and Goodman also reacted to the deal struck over the weekend by the DGA, reiterating that it won’t stop the WGA from doing what it’s doing.
“We anticipated the DGA was going to make a deal,” said Keyser. “The devil is in the details and what those proposals mean, really is only revealed when we know what the contract language is. We’re going to wait and see how that intersects with what we’re trying to achieve with the understanding that almost all of our agenda was separate from the director’s agenda, which is why we’ve always told our members and the AMPTP that any deal for writers has to run through [us], not through nobody else,” he said.
Goodman agreed that it doesn’t change the WGA’s negotiating stance. “Until we see the specifics, I wouldn’t comment on whether anything they got patterns to us. But it really doesn’t matter anyway, because I know that there are very serious issues facing writers,” he added. “The writers are facing an existential threat to their livelihoods that if we don’t fix in the strike, writing as a career will go away.”
Nicole Yorkin, a member of the WGA Negotiating Committee who served as showrunner of Netflix’s Hit & Run and exec produced the U.S. version of The Killing, said there’s little overlap between what the two guilds were negotiating over, apart from residuals and A.I. “Most of the other proposals we’re dealing with, they’re so specific to writers that I don’t think there’s anything that directors really care about,” she said. “It doesn’t stop what we’re doing. I think we’re just as strong as ever, I think now we’re fired up to never to keep going until we get [what we want].
Over in New York, there was also attention on Apple stores.
Members and supporters of the striking Writers Guild of America East stationed themselves outside four Apple stores in New York City on Monday afternoon, using flyers instead of picket signs.
Like anyone trying to get passers-by in New York City to accept literature on any subject, people with leaflets at Monday’s labor action targeting Apple found relatively few takers compared to the high volume of foot traffic.
“I find it helps if you don’t say anything,” said one WGA demonstrator outside Apple’s flagship store in New York on Fifth Avenue near Central Park.
WGA member Melissa Salmons stood in the middle of the curb on Fifth Avenue, her striker’s ensemble including a WGA baseball cap and a blue t-shirt with an Apple-like logo and text reading, “Pay different(ly).” — a spoof on the “Think different.” slogan from the tech company’s pre-AppleTV+ and pre-iPhone days.
Salmons, a screenwriter for The Hallmark Channel who previously wrote for soap operas including The Young and the Restless and Guiding Light, said this is her third writers strike.
“I am here because I am the poster child for how this union is supposed to work,” Salmons said. “I’m a middle-class writer, not a showrunner. I have had insurance my entire [working] life thanks to the Writers Guild. I will have a pension I can live on thanks to the Writers Guild. I am out here to pay that forward for all the young writers starting out primarily in streaming now who are struggling to pay their rent at the same time they are creating massive amounts of wealth for the streamers.”
Salmons, who served on the Guild’s negotiating committee during the 2007/08 strike, described a union that is operating today with hindsight it didn’t have in 2007.
“Now over the subsequent years, it’s become clear this is where everything’s going,” Salmons said. The 2008 contract, as good as it was in many respects, didn’t have enough safeguards in place to prevent streaming from eventually becoming a way for producers “to reduce a writer’s pay, power, [and] ability to be on set,” she said. “I did not even realize until we started having member meetings how very bad it was for people working in streaming, that you have people like the kid [from] The Bear who cannot pay his rent.”
Salmons said that the producers appear to be engaged in “a systematic and concerted effort” to use streaming to turn writing into gig work.
“The really fatal flaw with that, besides just the inhumanity,” she said, “is they’re eating their seed corn. They’re working the showrunners who do exist to death and gutting the system that created new showrunners, that allowed writers to follow a showrunner, to cover set, to learn how to work with directors, casting, props, the actors, and then follow their episode into post. To learn how to run a show,” she added. “They’re killing a system that has created great TV.”
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