As the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike continues into its second month, it is disheartening to note the continued silence from the Seattle Film Commission on this critical issue, especially in the wake of the Glacier Northwest v. Teamsters Supreme Court decision.
The WGA strike stems from the ongoing disputes between writers and major television studios over fair compensation and reasonable working conditions in the era of streaming platforms and digital content. Though the New York and Los Angeles-based picket lines may feel far away from Seattle, they have a deep ripple effect on the local film industry, one that will be compounded by the looming potential strikes of other vital industry unions, including the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA).
With stakes mounting and the entertainment industry at a crossroads, neutrality is no longer an option. The time has come for the Seattle Film Commission, which was established by Council Member Sara Nelson, to take a stand by recommending our own City Council pass a resolution in support of the current WGA strike and any further authorized strikes by arts workers labor unions.
At the heart of the film commission’s mission lies the development and support of the local film industry, including “promoting the sustainable growth of family-wage jobs prioritizing workers.” With this as its goal, the commission should issue a statement of support for the rights and fair treatment of the workers, who represent the backbone of the entertainment industry. By aligning with the striking writers, the commission can vehemently reaffirm its commitment to the creative community, solidifying Seattle's reputation as a city that values artistic expression and equitable treatment of arts workers and workers at large.
Another reason the film commission was created is because Seattle's film industry has suffered in recent years as productions flock to Vancouver and elsewhere due to attractive tax breaks. However, by issuing a statement in support of the WGA strike, the Commission can send a powerful message that sets it apart from competing filming locations. This support will prove to creative professionals and industry stakeholders that Seattle values their craft, fostering a film-friendly environment that attracts more productions, talent, and investment in the local film industry. One thing is obvious about the current strike: without writers writing new material, it’s highly unlikely there will be any productions filming in Seattle anytime soon. A fair settlement of the strike for the writers is therefore in all our interests.
Skeptics may argue that a simple statement of support is merely symbolic and lacks concrete impact. However, such cynicism fails to acknowledge the real-world effects of a unified voice. If the Seattle Film Commission, representing the local film industry, stands in solidarity with the striking writers, it amplifies the collective message. Many other representatives have recognized the value of conveying their support for the writers, including President Joe Biden, who on May 9 drew a round of applause for saying he hopes that “writers are given the fair deal they deserve as soon as possible.” Statements from elected officials across the country are hugely meaningful to the WGA in winning the media war and providing them with greater leverage for negotiation and fair resolutions.
The Seattle Film Commission's endorsement of the WGA strike would carry implications that extend well beyond the film industry, resonating with the broader landscape of national labor movements that affect us all, no matter what industry we work in. In recent years, Seattle has been a focal point for discussions on workers' rights, as exemplified by the unionization efforts of Amazon and Starbucks workers. By joining the chorus of support for the striking writers, the Seattle Film Commission can serve as a rallying cry for workers across different sectors, fostering a culture of empowerment and reminding us that the fight for labor rights transcends any single industry or occupation.
As a dedicated union member and the first artist and nonbinary person who will hopefully be elected to Seattle City Council, silence from the city’s film commission does not align with the ethics of the people or the culture of the city where I am proud to have grown up. Our city has always been a beacon of hope for a future of what an equitable world could be.
So join me emailing SeattleFilmCommission@seattle.gov or calling (206) 684-8993 to remind the Seattle Film Commission that artists are valued here in Seattle and to demand its members issue a statement of support for the WGA strike–and also encourage City Council to do the same! I will also be present for a sit-in at the next meeting of the Film Commission on June 26 at 9:30 am that all are welcome to join.
It’s been more than a month–what is the commission waiting for? What does Macklemore have to say as a strong supporter of this commission that has not taken a stance in support of working artists? If Nelson is a supporter of the creative economy, then why is there no action? Together, we can support the striking arts workers to build a future where artists of all kinds can flourish. Today, June 5, 20223, my union, SAG-AFTRA representing performers among others in Film/TV, will vote nationwide to authorize a strike in solidarity with the writers of WGA. The time to fight is now, will you join us?
Ry Armstrong (they/she/he) is a candidate for Seattle City Council District 3 and a union member of both AEA & SAG-AFTRA.