This is the third time I've written something that ended up on The Huffington Post. The first time my subject matter concerned cooking chicken when I was twelve years old. My second topic was the important discussion of the merits of Pie vs. Cake. And now, I write about my Guild's (the Writers Guild of America) overwhelming decision to refuse to work without a contract.
The first thing I want to say, loud and clear (or as loud and clear as you can say with the printed word) is that WE WANT TO WORK. That's actually the biggest single truth about our Guild. We all long to write (preferably about things we care about, but that's not even a prerequisite). We live to tell stories, and we feel incredibly blessed that someone will pay us to do so.
That having been said, we expect that we will be fairly rewarded for the stories we tell--if they are good enough to attract an audience--or to get some attention. The more attention, the more we believe we should be rewarded.
If we were cavemen (and cavewomen), we writers would be the people standing behind the people doing the drawings on the walls of the caves and we'd be giving them the ideas. At night, when the fire was lit and we all gathered round, we'd be given some food based on how well the work went over. The shared experiences that were illustrated in the cave paintings would help us as groups understand the past, and they would also help us as a group determine our collective future. And sometimes, they'd just get the group through a hard day.
But what if, try to stay with me here, all of the Caves were suddenly owned by six EXTREMELY POWERFUL Cavemen. These corporations, I mean Cave People, had developed, in effect, a monopoly. Or at the very least a cartel. All of us storytellers had to go to them to negotiate, and these six powerful Cave People said that we storytellers would get meat when a new story went up on a cave, but not if a story was created and then carved into a block of stone--because the stone was not on a wall. And a stone tablet had no future for storytelling. And even if it did, they owned all of the stone.
Well of course they owned all of the stone! They owned all of the Caves! And they had the sticks and clubs and things that throw the rocks at people. And who were we to them? We were just the people who didn't want to go outside and hunt and gather. We were the ones who stayed in the caves and made up the stories so when they all came home at night, they could unwind and disappear into another world. A world we helped create.
And then the six powerful (and did I mention very, very greedy?) Cave People who told everyone how to run the Caves felt that even when everyone was beginning to look at our new stories on the blocks of stone, and no one was as interested in the stories on the walls anymore, that was none of our business. We should accept the meat we'd been given. We should accept their contract.
And for almost twenty years, we have. But now, we refuse to work without an acknowledgement of a change in the times and a change in the delivery systems for entertainment (I mean wall paintings). We know we aren't the big powerful ones. We know we don't own the Caves. We don't want to. We just want a fair deal. It is a story of David and Goliath.
And some stories have resonance because of the underlying truth in the narrative.
Read more thoughts about the strike on Huffington Post's writers' strike opinion page