“Striking writers stand up for Warner Bros. CEO’s commencement address”
High-profile television and film writers travel to Boston to demonstrate the speech by David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, at Boston University’s commencement ceremony on May 21.
Members of the Writers Guild of America West and East will set up their picket lines “with support from Boston University students, WGA members from New England and other regional unions and community groups,” the unions announced Thursday.
The WGA and other unions, as well as Boston University students and alumni, have criticized the university for keeping Zaslav – a university law graduate – as opening speaker during the strike.
“Currently, 11,500 WGA members across the country are on strike because companies – including Warner Bros. Discovery – refuse to negotiate a fair contract that meets the authors’ reasonable demands regarding pay, final payments and the existential threat that AI poses to workers , into account,” the unions said in a statement. “It is shameful that in the midst of a campaign to save the future of work, Boston University is using a graduation ceremony to honor someone who wants to destroy their students’ prospects of building sustainable careers.”
On Friday, a Boston University spokesman declined to comment on the authors’ plans to picket at the opening, but told HuffPost there was “no change in plans” for the ceremony.
Since May 2nd Film and television writers went on strike about fairer pay in the streaming age, sustainable working conditions and protective measures relating to the use of artificial intelligence. They fear that without improvements in these and other key areas, writing as a livelihood could be lost, particularly for writers from underrepresented backgrounds. (HuffPost’s unionized employees are also members of the WGAE.)
One of the main focuses of the authors is the enormous gap between them the profits of major media and entertainment companies and the far lower wages writers earn for the shows and films that help generate those profits.
In the context of the strike, writers have pointed out how excessive CEO salaries are compared to what they are asking for at the negotiating table. In 2021, Zaslav made nearly $250 million as a result of stock options relating to a contract extension resulting from the Warner Bros. Discovery merger. Last year he did $39.3 million. According to the authors, their proposals, which would benefit around 11,500 working authors, would incur costs totaling about $429 million per year.
Last Friday, Zaslav announced that Warner Bros. had made Discovery $50 million in streaming earnings in the first quarter of 2023.
Asked about the strike during an interview with CNBC the same dayhe said the “writers’ love of business and love of work” would end the strike.
The striking authors not only aimed directly at studio giants, but also stopped various film and television productions the solidarity of the unionized crew membersto increase pressure on Hollywood executives to strike a fair deal.