Late-Night Comedy Writers Face “Oblivion” If WGA Loses Strike, Guild Negotiating Committee Member Greg Iwinski Says

Late-night comedy writers are facing “oblivion” if the Writers Guild loses its eight-week-old strike, according to late-night comedy writer and WGA negotiating committee member Greg Iwinski, a former writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

“Friends (and sometimes reporters) ask me why the writers are still so fired up, so visible and so united two months into the strike, and my answer is easy: When the alternative is oblivion, what else can you do but fight like hell?” he said in a message sent to guild members today, the 57th day of the walkout. And sure, comedians are prone to hyperbole, but oblivion is what late-night writers are facing without a victory in this contract.”

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Iwinski, who hosts a weekly, all-volunteer, YouTube Channel comedy show about the strike – which is perfectly legal under the WGA’s strike rules – wrote:

“A key fight in this strike is over the future of Appendix A in an industry dominated by streamers.” In television, he noted, Appendix A in the guild’s contract covers almost everything that isn’t a movie or an episodic TV show, including late-night, soap operas, quiz and variety shows and all other non-dramatic shows.

“Currently, when we work for subscription streaming services our minimum pay is completely negotiable and our residuals are insufficient. The company response to our proposals to extend television terms to cover these kinds of shows on what are now the dominant platforms for content these days was unacceptable. They would extend some terms to cover only comedy-variety shows, and only offer a weekly minimum rate (while allowing writers to be hired at a day rate) all at budget levels that exclude too many shows.

“The AMPTP’s version of a union deal would leave too many Appendix A writers without fair compensation on the largest entertainment platforms in the world. A world where the already-short 13-week cycles are replaced by week-to-week or day-to-day contracts is a world where writers don’t have enough job security to get approved for an apartment in the cities where these shows are made. A world without a reasonable residual for the reuse of our work is one where writers cannot afford to pay our basic living expenses. And a world where the AMPTP’s too-high budget breaks exclude too many series from coverage is a world where none of the other terms matter.

“But here’s the thing: We are going to win. Not just because all of you incredible episodic writers and screenwriters are standing in lockstep with us, as one union. And not just because nonfiction writers and animation writers and news writers are standing with us, reinforcing that writing is writing and we are all equally in this together.

“We are going to win because this is not just a strike. It is a moment. It is a movement. If you are a Millennial, you know that feeling deep inside your gut that a broken system has existed for too long and hurt too many, and that fate has handed you the match to burn it down. That is our moment. (If you’re Gen Z, sorry about low-rise jeans, we’re not perfect.)

“We have solidarity not just from our fellow writers, or even from our fellow creatives, but from human beings around the country and around the world. That solidarity was on display in L.A. last Wednesday, where over 5,000 members and allies turned out to our march and rally for a fair contract. It could be felt in NYC the next day, where a dozen New York City councilmembers spoke at a rally in support of a resolution demanding the AMPTP come back to the table and give writers a fair deal. 

“The AMPTP strolled into this summer thinking it was business as usual. They thought we would break. They thought we would pattern. They thought we were scared. They thought they were fighting one small piece of ‘their’ industry.

“Instead, their attempt at routine dismissal of the demands of their workers placed them squarely in the middle of America’s #hotlaborsummer. So many of us have felt the sting of a corporate overlord who neither understands or appreciates their workforce – and sometimes their industry. This maddening disrespect for craft, for career, for the dignity of work and the appreciation of a lifetime of skill – it’s not only anti-labor, it strikes at the spark of creativity that dwells within each human person. Some are surprised the writers are still united with so much solidarity. I’m more surprised that the AMPTP still thinks they can win this. They thought they were fighting one of us. They’re fighting all of us.”

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