8 Things Pinoys Need to Realize About the SAG-AFTRA and WGA Strike
Jul 24, 2023   •   Tim Henares
8List.ph is published by ID8, Inc.
Jul 24, 2023   •   Tim Henares
It’s often been said by people dismissively: first-world problems. And that’s exactly what a lot of us Filipinos think about the ongoing strike between the Hollywood big shots and the actors and writers who are demanding better money and better working conditions.
So why should we care? Surely, these events don’t affect us one bit, right? You’d be surprised. Here are just some reasons why what’s going on right now should be on our radar…
“So what? They’re a bunch of overpaid prima donnas anyway.”
It might seem like Mark Ruffalo, who is supposedly worth $35 million, should be one of the last people picketing for more money and better working conditions, but it’s not actually himself who Mr. Ruffalo and his other multimillionaire friends are fighting for: it’s the smaller writers and actors who barely make enough money and live from paycheck to paycheck. Because get this: there was a time most of them were also living from paycheck to paycheck, and we sure as heck would rather have him on our side than on the side of the billionaires.
“So why don’t they just give more of their money to these people?” Because it’s not the bigger actor’s job to pay people who are functionally their co-workers. It’s the employer who’s supposed to pay these people. $35 Million isn’t enough to solve the problems of the entire union, but $35 Billion, which the big corporations probably have, absolutely can. Pitting workers against each other like this is Divide and Conquer 101, and if the actors and writers started fighting amongst themselves, guess who keeps their money? The corporations.
“So what? If they hate their job so much, then resign and find a new one!”
Most of these people are already working multiple jobs. That’s why there’s a stereotype that when someone claims to be an actor in LA, they’re probably really a server in some restaurant. The cost of living in LA is incredibly high. When one of our 8List writers lived there for a while, renting a room inside a house was $1000 a month, and that was already discounted because the owner was also a Filipino.
And let’s face it, how many of us have the luxury to up and leave and find a new job? Most Pinoys should be able to relate here, where quitting our job can be the difference between starving and paying the rent. These people are also fighting for something that’s a matter of life or death for some of them.
“So what? They signed a contract, they should fulfill it.”
Except that’s why they’re striking. The contract that said they can’t negotiate is finally up, and this is how they renegotiate. And they can’t do this at will because as a union, that’s how collective bargaining works: you agree to terms after the previous agreement is done, and you can’t just change those terms until after the duration finishes. And the last time the writers specifically renegotiated? It was in 2007.
So what are they fighting for in 2023? Among other things, money from residuals via streaming services, which literally did not exist in 2007. This means that since the time Netflix, Disney+ and all those other services became a thing, there have been no safeguards in place to pay people their fair share, and nobody could have possibly predicted that this needed to be negotiated way back then. So you can’t possibly blame them for “signing a bad contract” because guess what? People who write contracts aren’t psychic.
“So what? The corporations put up the capital and deserve the money. That’s how capitalism works.”
This isn’t rocket science. Corporations will look out for themselves, as they are wont to do. So who’s supposed to look out for “the little guy,” who is literally us? Well, us. And that’s why unions are important and why this strike is important. It shows that yes, we as people have rights, and inasmuch as we don’t want to feel exploited, sometimes, that’s exactly what’s happening to us, and we just don’t realize it. If a nurse asks, “wait, why is a writer for a terrible show making much more money than me,” that’s not an issue with the writer, that’s an issue with the person paying the nurse. We’re all workers here: it’s not a competition with each other. It’s about getting our fair share.
“So what? I’m not leftist scum. I believe in capitalism!”
Just because we live in a particular system doesn’t make that system perfect. Capitalism may be the best system we have right now, but we can always make it better by making it more humane and more sustainable for people. And that’s what this strike is about: showing us what we can do. This is especially important because…
“So what? They’re picketing. We don’t picket in the Philippines.”
Yes, this argument has actually been floated to us, and here’s a tip: picketing is a synonym for rallying. And after demonizing and red-tagging activists for the last 7 or so years, this should be a wake-up call to us. Rallies, strikes, pickets, all of these demonstrations are meant to disturb the status quo. This is why it’s illogical to complain about a transport strike disrupting school and work, because before we got to the strike, the people in power refused to negotiate with the transport sector, resulting in a strike. It’s so easy to blame the people who are protesting for being a nuisance, but the alternative used to be bloody revolutions. So a peaceful demonstration is one hell of an improvement. Rallies and protests aren’t supposed to be convenient. Otherwise, we’d just keep on ignoring them the way they were easily ignored before the strike happened.
“So what? I don’t care. I have my own problems.”
Even if you consider cost of living differences, the mere fact that a developed country like America still has ways to go before it can say that its workers are treated decently should make us ask if we’re just so used to being taken advantage of, that it feels weird to think that we could stand to want to improve our situation.
If we take the cue from what’s going on in Hollywood right now, then we might just realize that yes, we should all be fighting the same fight because even with differences in salaries, we’re all in this together.
“So what? This issue will never affect me.”
It bears repeating: if you are a worker like them, it absolutely does. And if you’re on the big corporation side of things, it doesn’t hurt for you to be a little more humane to the plight of the people who make you money. Let’s all be thankful that we don’t put the aristocracy under a guillotine now after a revolution to overturn the elites. The least we could all do is simply understand the need to discuss and negotiate in good faith.
Because when a select few people are making billions while the people working for them are making peanuts, it’s not just entitlement speaking when we say that maybe, just maybe, we collectively deserve better.
What do you think about the strikes? Sound off in the comments!
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