2023 Writers Strike Rages On: Week 2 of Picketing Begins with Big Crowds at Netflix, Disney, Paramount

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America called for a strike after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers fell through. The first week was robust with picketing in New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta, with the striking shutting down productions. As the strike enters a second week, Variety is still reporting from the picket lines.

DAY 7 (May 8)

NETFLIX (Los Angeles)

*Family and Kid Day at the Netflix picket drew a huge crowd, seemingly showing that Week 2 crowds would be as robust as Week 1.

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*Variety spoke with Michele Mulroney, vice president of the WGA West, on the picket line outside of Netflix headquarters in Hollywood about what AMPTP needs to do to resume the contract talks.

“I’m feeling strong, because our members are feeling strong,” she said. “Our members are very educated on the reasons that we’re out and the reasons we are walking. Every day, leadership is very mindful of the impact of the strike and the sacrifices that are required. But it’s a testament to how bad things are, unfortunately. You’re seeing today a lot of parents are saying, ‘I need to be able to pay my rent, to take care of my kids.’ That’s really fundamental to what we’re doing. If you’re a working writer who’s creating content that makes billions of dollars for the studios, you really should be able to feed your kids, pay your rent, support your family. That’s pretty basic stuff.

“The DGA is negotiating starting on Wednesday, and we want them to get a really strong and fair contract. SAG is going to be negotiating in a few weeks for their contract. We all share a lot of the same issues and concerns. So I’ve said it before All of the leadership is echoing this. We stand ready. I’ll go back in this afternoon if they want us in there, if they’re serious about addressing some of the issues that so far they haven’t taken seriously enough.”

Beau Eichhorn with his mother Laura Eichhorn and friend Janet Lin on the WGA picket line outside Netflix in Hollywood
Beau Eichhorn with his mother Laura Eichhorn and friend Janet Lin on the WGA picket line outside Netflix in Hollywood

The family-themed picket at Netflix was organized by Liz Benjamin, a veteran TV writer whose past credits include Netflix’s “Dead to Me.” The goal was to reinforce that the vast majority of writers in the guild are in the middle-class zone with families to support. “We’re not greedy millionaire writers. We’re hard-working people with families,” Benjamin said. “I really wanted to put a human face on this strike.”

Like so many striking writers, Benjamin left two projects in a state of limbo last week when the strike came down, one for Amazon and one for Netflix. “I love all the work that I’ve been able to do in streaming,” Benjamin said. “It’s been so fulfilling. But I’m not making enough to support two kids with special needs. I need to get paid more and I need to work more.”

Benjamin echoed the sentiments of many who walked the L-shaped route along Sunset and Van Ness. “We just want to get back to doing what we love,” she said. “We just need them to get back to the table and come up with a fair deal.”

“Fist up, pencils down” and “Netflix, you’re no good, pay your writers like you should” were the chants of the morning. The picket line route went right across the main driveway leading into the Netflix campus and its underground parking. Strike captains worked hard to cajole those who drove on to the property to give up a honk — and some did.

To add to the festive mood, writer Cindy Appel dressed up in a full-body dinosaur costume, complete with a battery-powered internal fan to help puff up the dino-torso. “I bought it during the pandemic to help cheer up the neighborhood kids,” Appel told Variety as she held a picket sign that read: “Don’t make us extinct.”

Striking writer Cindy Appel donned a dino costume for the family-themed picket outside Netflix offices in Hollywood
Striking writer Cindy Appel donned a dino costume for the family-themed picket outside Netflix offices in Hollywood

Writers Laura Eichhorn and Janet Lin made the rounds along with Eichhorn’s toddler Beau. “This is an existential crisis that is about the future,” Eichhorn said, pointing to her son. “Big companies and AI — it’s terrifying.”

Lin added that she’s heard a great deal from other writers about the “mini room effect,” and how “people just go from job to job and it’s impossible to make enough money.” She added that the challenge of writers having to juggle multiple projects for short periods of time — issues that the WGA aims to address with contract proposals that the studios have deemed nonstarters — is “not a great way to be creative.”

Daniel Kibblesmith was one of many pickets to point to concerns that massive structural changes in the way television is produced is part of an effort to marginalize the voices of writers in the creative process. “We’re not going to get up early and wait by the phone for a call to come write a TV show for the day,” Kibblesmith said. “That’s just not how it’s done.”

Reporting by Jazz Tangcay and Cynthia Littleton

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