It’s Time to Fix a Broken System, Say Writers Picketing in New York

Picketers in Manhattan
Striking writers man the picket lines in Manhattan. (Image credit: Michael Malone)

A few hundred picketing writers walked along West 26th Street in Manhattan during the afternoon of May 5, making their voices heard about the terms facing television and film writers in the modern age. The Writers Guild of America strike began May 2. 

Asked what brought her out, Allison Glock, executive producer on The Blacklist, said, “It’s the right thing to do. The system’s broken and it’s time for it to be rectified. Unfortunately, this is the only way that folks seem to listen.”

Glock and T Cooper are a writing team on The Blacklist, in its 10th and final season on NBC

“The system was broken by, essentially, tech,” Cooper said of streaming’s emergence in television. “When tech came in it broke something that wasn’t perfect, but was functioning in allowing people to live sustainable lives and know where your next job is coming from.”

Cooper said television has become yet another industry that has turned into a gig economy. “It’s not respectful of the workers,” he said. “Honestly, it’s really not dignified either. It’s a very terrible place to be expected to create beautiful, meaningful work when you’re terrified about where and if and how the next job will sustain you and your family.”

Glock and Cooper mentioned some “heavy hitters,” including Tom Fontana, Aidy Bryant and Mandy Patinkin, showing up to support the writers on West 26th Street. They mentioned the support of other unions, including the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, theater union IATSE and the Teamsters, turning up as well, which Glock said made the 2023 strike different from previous ones. 

The writers will picket and protest for as long as the strike goes on, Glock believes. “I envision us being out here for as long as it takes,” she said. “I think New York is a union town and we don’t quit.”

Writers being writers, many expressed themselves with handwritten signs. “Logan Roy didn’t die on his own,” one said. “A writer killed him off.”

Said another, “Only writing signs now.”

The song selection pumping out onto the sidewalk between 11th Avenue and the West Side Highway, where FBI is shot, was carefully curated, featuring the likes of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and the Beatles’ “Money.”

Feature film writer Evan Parter, whose credits include The Independent, believes the studios are not taking the writers’ demands all that seriously. “I’m standing up for fair contracts for writers,” he said. 

He would not venture a guess as to how long the strike will last and is keeping an eye on the Directors Guild of America, whose contract expires June 30, to see how those contract negotiations may influence the writers guild. 

Walking with Parter was Madeline Crowley, an NYU student aspiring to be a screenwriter. “It’s really important to stand up for the industry that I want to be joining one day,” she said. 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.