Add this to the pile of evidence that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have the public on their side: more than two-thirds of those surveyed in Gallup’s annual labor support poll say they side with writers and actors on the picket lines in their months-long strike.
In the new poll released Wednesday, 72% of those surveyed said that they support striking television and film writers compared to just 19% who support the studios. Actors are enjoying a similar level of support with 67% saying they support the SAG-AFTRA strike with 24% saying they support the studios.
The strong majority support is in part due to a widespread rise in public support for unions. When asked whether they approve or disapprove of unions, 67% of those surveyed by Gallup said they approve.
That’s slightly down from last year’s approval rating of 71% but above the 62% all-time average recorded by the annual survey that Gallup began in 1936. It is also well above the all-time low of 48% recorded in 2009.
This increase in general support has also been seen across partisan lines. While a majority of Republicans still do not support unions, approval rating among that political cohort has risen from 29% in 2009 to 47% today. It has also risen among independents — 44% to 69% — and Democrats — 66% to 88% — during that same period.
This general rise in support has come as unions across the country have organized through strikes and other labor actions to demand better wages and working conditions. Along with Hollywood’s double strike, UPS workers at Teamsters Local 396 successfully negotiated for a strong contract that included wage increases and other key gains, such as air conditioning in trucks that have become dangerously hot during the summer.
Meanwhile, the negotiating committee for United Auto Workers is in the midst of contract talks with top car companies for wage increases and a shorter work week, and could order a strike if a deal is not reached by the time the previous contract expires on Sept. 14.
But while these outside factors have helped perception of Hollywood’s unions, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA have also benefited from years of internal organizing and an immense effort by both its leaders and the rank-and-file through social media to educate the public about why they are striking for a seminal deal.
SAG-AFTRA leaders and members have spoken out about how the vast majority of its union are not A-list millionaires but rather working class people who often work second jobs, with many not making enough from acting jobs to qualify for the guild’s health plan.
To this end, the guild is pushing for a contract that would break the studios’ pattern bargaining approach to minimum rate increases and provide actors with an 11% minimum rate increase in the first year of the next contract, something that SAG-AFTRA says is necessary to counter the decrease in real wages brought by inflation and higher living costs.
The guild is also pushing for strong terms regarding consent and compensation for studio use of actors’ likeness and performance in AI recreations, an issue that has become a rallying point for writers and actors alike.
The WGA, meanwhile, has warned that the current trends in Hollywood are eroding the decades-old writers’ room structure that has made their profession financially sustainable and is instead transforming it into a gig economy. They are pushing for contract terms that would codify that structure in the new contract.
“Our demands come directly from the membership itself. They address the existential threats to the profession of writing and to our individual careers, all caused by changes to the business model implemented by the companies in the last seven to 10 years,” the guild wrote in a memo sent last week after a contentious meeting with several top studio CEOs, including Disney’s Bob Iger and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.
WGA told its members that its negotiating committee told those CEOs that the guild “could not and would not pick and choose among those threats; that we have not struck for nearly four months to half-save ourselves, nor are we leaving any sector of this Guild unprotected when we return to work.”
Sources tell TheWrap that there have been no further discussions between the two sides since that meeting, though the WGA says it will “remain committed to direct negotiations with the companies.”
For more on TheWrap’s strike coverage, click here.