Today in labor history: Hollywood writers begin epic strike

On Nov. 5, 2007, some 12,000 movie and television writers were forced to go on strike over when industry executives refused to structure compensation in their contract for content delivered over the Internet and via DVDs. Writers on both coasts brought the entertainment industry to a standstill and forced reruns of some of the most popular TV shows.

People’s World labor editor John Wojcik reported:

“Jay Leno was filmed talking with strikers at NBC’s Burbank, Calif., studios shortly after he was told by network executives that his services were not needed because his show was immediately going into re-runs. A spokesman at CBS said ‘The Late Show with David Letterman’ has also been switched into re-run mode.

“Fans who showed up for the ‘Ellen’ talk show at the NBC lot in Burbank were turned away and told that taping has been put off indefinitely. Comedy Central said ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ and ‘The Colbert Report’ were now in re-run mode, too.

“The strike by the Writers Guild of America began after the networks, during talks on Nov. 4, refused to negotiate satisfactory methods to pay writers for material that ends up on the Internet.

“At Paramount Studio’s landmark gate on Hollywood’s Melrose Avenue, 50 striking writers wore red strike T-shirts. Drivers passing by honked their horns in support.

“In front of NBC studios at Rockefeller Center in New York, strikers displayed a giant, inflated rat to symbolize network executives and chanted ‘no contract, no shows.’

“The position of the networks and the studios is that the Internet is too new a media for them to be able to structure a system of compensation for the writers. In answer, Jose Arroyo, a writer for ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien,’ said, ‘Then give us a percentage, so that if they make money, we make money.'”

The strike lasted three months with the writers winning some gains. Throughout the strike, fans and “on camera talent” supported the writers in their fight against the corporate giants in the entertainment industry.

Photo: Striking Writers Guild of America members rally Century City in Los Angeles on Nov. 7, 2007. (CC)