Editor’s Note: Whether on screen or off, Hollywood can always be counted on to keep us entertained. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Liberty Nation’s HollyWeird column shines the spotlight on Tinseltown’s A-listers and their wild and wacky takes on today’s events.
The Hollywood strike is having an effect not only on moviegoers and Netflix bingers but also on everyday workers in the industry who haven’t had an income in months. It’s not the A-listers who are suffering; it’s the staffers who get paid the lowest in the industry and now can’t afford basic necessities.
In California, striking workers cannot get unemployment benefits and they are not eligible for SNAP food benefits unless they qualified pre-strike. Support personnel, such as those who work on the set and provide transportation for actors, “tend to be low-paid,” Liz Hsiao Lan Alper, co-founder of Pay Up Hollywood and a Writers Guild of America West board member told The Hollywood Reporter. “So much of the compensation that they receive is, no one’s going to say it, but it’s implied to be food-based,” such as complimentary food provided in the writers’ rooms, agency kitchens, and conference rooms. “It’s invisible compensation that just went away when the work stoppages happened.”
Keith McNutt, executive director at the Entertainment Community Fund, whose donors include Steven Spielberg and Seth McFarlane, claimed there has been a huge increase of people requesting help for basic living expenses. “Before this started, we would do about 50 grants out of the L.A. office a week,” he told The Reporter. “Now we’re getting 50 applications a day.” He added, “This is happening right after the pandemic, which drained a lot of people’s savings.” The fund has already distributed $3 million to more than 1,500 workers as of Aug. 1.
A lot of organizations have come forward to help the struggling strikers.
The strike, which started in May, has made it difficult for staffers to make ends meet. Food drives and other financial resources have coalesced to help those in need. On July 28, 1,740 food boxes to feed about 8,700 people were distributed that day alone. Another food drive was held in August to help more than 1,000 households.
Pay Up Hollywood, on June 7, relaunched its COVID-19 Hollywood Support Staff Relief Fund and has so far distributed nearly $45,000 in one-time financial grants, giving recipients up to $1,000 each.
SAG-AFTRA Foundation offers emergency help, including grocery gift cards, to its union members. In addition, the organization has already made a “seven-figure donation to the Foundation early in its strike to assist these efforts,” The Reporter explained, and the WGA West provides its members with emergency loans.
Groceries for Writers, administered by Humanitas, has given out more than 1,100 gift cards to WGA members since May. Humanitas Executive Director Michelle Franke told the outlet that “many of these writers have left notes indicating they’re in very urgent financial situations.” She continued:
“Writers describe struggling with student debt, falling into eligibility gaps with CalFresh and EDD [state unemployment assistance], eviction notices, writing teams splitting low pay, having only just moved to Los Angeles and not having a large local support network as a consequence, dwindling savings.”
Drew Carey, host of The Price Is Right, has vowed to pay for all striking writers dining at Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank as well as at LA’s Swingers Diner while the strike continues. Inspired by the actor’s generosity, Glen Curado, CEO and founder of World Harvest Food Bank, told The Reporter he is offering free food to striking writers and actors as well, serving a daily average of 150-200 members.
The writers and actors are on strike for several reasons, including better pay and working conditions. One of the biggest concerns is the studios’ use of artificial intelligence, which they say threatens jobs and reduces creativity. Currently, negotiations are stalled.
Tune in next time to see what else Tinseltown has planned. For more HollyWeird, click here.
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