May 23, 2024

This past season has been called “Hot Labor Summer” — a nod to the unprecedented amount of worker uprisings, and the fact that it’s the hottest summer in the history of humanity.

Labor and climate justice have historically been framed in opposition, but the exploitation of our environment and the exploitation of workers are inextricably linked by the extractive practices of the same companies. Hollywood is not only facing down studios — we’re facing down a system that prioritizes profit over people. We’re all fighting the same bad guy: corporate greed.

As a WGA member and climate activist, I’ve learned these roles are not separate — they inform and fuel each other. I know, we’re tired; it’s been hard, and violence around the world continues to derail and divide us. Let’s take a beat to celebrate our kickass win. And then let’s use the skills we’ve gained over our 148 day strike to keep showing up — for SAG-AFTRA, for our sister unions and for climate actions. We’ve just taken a master class in organizing, picking up skills that will help us stay in the fight to transform our systems:

We’ve learned about the power of collective action. Strikes have driven so much of what we take for granted: the 8-hour workday, child labor laws, weekend time off. This strike, too, will benefit the future. We’re helping set standards across all industries: AI is coming for every field. The Hollywood strikes are badass, galvanizing examples of how to respond to abstract threats (like the gig economy and AI) via tangible action with real leverage (no writing or acting until there’s a fair contract). For nearly five months, we put pressure where management feels it — on the bottom line. Imagine how that communal resolve could translate to climate demands.

We’ve learned about solidarity. Other unions showing up, from hotel workers to Teamsters to IATSE, have laid the groundwork for unbreakable morale. Rallies led by charismatic actors have inspired and energized us. Understanding we’re part of a much bigger labor story — writers and actors are fighting the same companies that factory, service, and retail workers are fighting — has bred collective power. And the bosses know it.

We’ve learned about joy and community. This is not grim work, this is a party that everyone is invited to. It’s so easy to feel isolated in our problems, but the picket line reminds us that your struggle is mine. Music and friends are essential ingredients of resilience and courage.

We’ve learned about mutual aid. So many organizations have our backs and the backs of support staff — from produce boxes to pet food, from financial aid to accommodations for strikers with disabilities. Seasoned writers donated their residual checks to grocery funds. This community is our safety net.

And we’ve learned about rage. This is the fight of our lives. We’re up against a bananas, broken system for the existence of our careers, passion and opportunity to tell stories that connect people. Though we’ve won, the inequity that fuels that rage is still rampant.

We can’t let this moment — the hottest, labor-est summer of our lives — slip away from us.

This strike has made activists out of each of us. Can we harness this momentum? Can we take the solidarity, mutual aid, rage, joy and power we’ve felt and continue to show up for SAG, our sister unions and for climate? Even just a couple hours a month. And now that we get to write again, the stories of collective action that I’m sure will bubble out of this will only fuel the future .

Our demands were nothing short of changing the values of a whole system — to put people over profit. Let’s not return to business-as-usual. Let’s not forget what it felt like to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves or careers. We’re fighting for a just, livable future. More than 11,000 writers went up against goliaths and won. And it’s only just the beginning.

Carmiel Banasky is a WGA member and Lead Script Consultant for Good Energy, a nonprofit consultancy that guides screenwriters on climate issues. Banasky is also a novelist and screenwriter who co-wrote “A Family Guide to Hunting,” a short film starring Margaret Cho. She also created a climate-fiction audio drama for Wondery.

(Pictured: Carmiel Banasky, center, on a WGA picket line with Ora Yashar, left, and Van Nguyen)

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