Writers strike 2023: WGA demonstrations held in Chicago outside NBC Tower

ByMaher Kawash WLS logo
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Writers strike demonstrations held in downtown Chicago
The 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike has come to Chicago, where demonstrations were held Wednesday outside NBC Tower.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The 2023 writers strike has come to Chicago, where demonstrations were held Wednesday outside NBC Tower.

Better pay, better contracts and protection against artificial intelligence is on the minds of hundreds of writers in Chicago who work behind the scenes to produce some of your favorite TV shows.

Production is on hold, locally and nationally, as the Writers Guild of America has stepped back from negotiations to send their message.

The fight of one union has turned into the fight for all unions. The WGA has been on strike for the last two and a half weeks as they struggle to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

Hundreds of local writers were joined by local leaders and unions outside NBC Tower in downtown Chicago Wednesday.

"The issues writers are facing are the same issues that workers are facing all over the country," said Zayd Dorn, WGA captain.

The strike impacts thousands of workers nationwide, and has shuttered production on many shows and films in the meantime. The WGA is asking for better pay and contract structures, among other things. Comedians Bobcat Goldthwait and Tim Kazurinsky joined the rally in Chicago to voice those concerns.

"It's absurd right now," Goldthwait said. "I have friends who are showrunners on really popular shows that are leaving the business because they can't make an actual decent wage."

The guild's demands also include increasing TV staffing minimums based on the number of episodes while also increasing the guaranteed number of weeks writers are employed for a show.

ABC7 reached out to AMPTP for comment but have not heard back.

Negotiations haven't continued since May 1, and the studios sent a statement to Variety that day saying those staffing minimums and guarantees are a key reason for the stalled negotiations.

"Somebody has to write it! And people aren't getting paid fairly for what they do," Kazurinsky said.

The industry is also changing as technology evolves and artificial intelligence emerges. With AI now able to write scripts, writers want contract provisions to keep their jobs safe from computers.

"Obviously it's a tool that may be used by a lot of people for a number of purposes, but the idea is it should not be used to take away writer pay or to replace writers," said Martin Zimmerman, WGA writer and strike captain.

"They don't do comedy well. There's no absurdity, there's no whimsy. Do you really want your comedy written by a Vulcan?" said Goldthwait. "I think the last funny computer was HAL."

Shows like "The Chi" will remain on hold as this process plays out. WGA leaders said they're willing to drag this out as long as it takes to reach common ground.