…and being made to work fewer hours


WGA’s protests, by the digits

11,000: Unionized writers in Hollywood

100 days: How long the last Writers Guild of America strike lasted for, between Nov. 5, 2007 and Feb. 12, 2008. There were several casualties including but not limited to Saturday Night Live going off-air; late night hosts like Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and David Letterman paying their non-striking staff out of their own pockets; and shows like Gossip Girl, Heroes, Breaking Bad, and 30 Rock, all had to broadcast truncated seasons


96%: How many members voted “Yes” in 2017’s strike authorization vote. A simple majority is enough to announce a strike, but an overwhelming one sends out a strong message. That year, Hollywood narrowly averted a WGA strike by working out a last-minute deal which served two big union asks—increasing the health plan and improving pay for writers working on short-order TV series

153 days: How long the longest WGA strike on record lasted. It took place in 1988


4%: How much median weekly writer-producer pay has declined over the last decade. Adjusting for inflation, the decline is 23%

$60,932: Current minimum for a first draft non-original screenplay, which is only 1.2% of the minimum budget threshold of $5 million—or 0.3% of a still-modest $20 million budget


Half: Share of series writers that work in streaming now

People of interest: David Young and Ellen Stutzman

👨🏻 David Young, executive director for WGA West during the 2007 strike, has led negotiations for the union for over a decade now and has become well known for his cutthroat style. At the end of February, he announced that he was taking a medical leave.


👩🏻 Ellen Stutzman, the assistant executive director of the guild, stepped in as the new chief negotiator just a month ago. Although a new face in the limelight, Stutzman is a seasoned member having been with the guild for 17 years, and served as assistant executive director since 2018.

Throwback: The last war that WGA won

In 2019, the WGA took on Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies WME, CAA, and UTA, accusing them of breach of fiduciary duty and price-fixing in an antitrust lawsuit.


The union argued that “packaging fees”—talent agencies would charge about 3% of a project’s license fee upfront—encouraged agents to prioritize deals that increase revenue for the agency rather than keep their interests aligned with the writers they represent. WGA won the war to scrap these fees in future projects.

One more thing: Even writing for a hit show doesn’t help writers

Ashley Nicole Black, a writer on Apple TV series Ted Lasso, HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, and TBS late night talk show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, explained how these days “writing on hits doesn’t make you any more money!” than writing a so-called flop in an April 12 Twitter thread:

“So back in the day when something like Friends was a hit they sold it to other networks to re-air. So when you see Friends on Nick at Nite (yeah y’all, we old), those writers are still getting a check. As they should because we are still enjoying their work. But now if you write on a hit for a network they don’t sell it to another network, they sell it to their own streamer. Or if you wrote it for a streamer they sell it nowhere. So even if it’s a huge hit, they get to determine the value and then they send you a check for $1.25. So residuals kind of don’t exist anymore. When you add that to wages going down at all levels, smaller writers rooms, and shorter working periods, writers are being squeezed in all directions and folks don’t have enough savings to live between seasons of (even hit) shows.”


Replying to Black’s thread, Mike Royce, the creator of Netflix series One Day at a Time—which Netflix canceled and Pop TV revived—chimed in to say that the definition of a “hit” is also becoming increasingly ambiguous due to streaming platforms’ reticence in sharing data about their shows’ success.

Related stories

🤖 The Writers Guild is open to AI screenwriters—with a caveat

🇺🇸 The looming Hollywood writers’ strike could leave America without political comedy in the age of Trump


✍🏻 The last Hollywood writers’ strike showed creatives will always find outlets for their creativity

Disclosure: Quartz’s US-based reporters are represented by the Writers Guild of America East, which is affiliated with WGAW.


This story was updated with results of the vote.

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