The WGA strike & finding self-worth outside of work
On valuing ourselves + others, plus recommendations, a writing tip, and lots more.
The WGA and AMPTP have reached a tentative deal! Los Angeles can breathe again! The deal is not yet public, and we cannot go back to work, but an end to the strike is in very close sight. The negotiating committee calls the deal “exceptional,” and I cannot wait to hear what they earned for us. With the autoworkers now on strike, I am so invigorated by the recent display of union power. Collective bargaining is the key to making real change in this country.
Of course, being on strike is not fun. It is soul and wallet-crushing. Another less discussed but very real aspect of this particular strike is that successful people who endlessly hustle and seek approval through their careers suddenly could not work… for a very long time. Reflecting on the past five months, I’m grateful that I’d already worked to detach my value as a human being from my career. Many others, I imagined, started that journey this summer. What to do for five months out of work, without trying to move your career forward?
Earlier this month, Drew Barrymore announced her show was returning without WGA writers, even though the show is covered by a WGA contract. A few days later, Bill Maher jumped on the bandwagon, claiming he was re-starting his show because “I am not prepared to lose a whole year.”
Reading that shook me. Does not working for 5 months - to somebody with no financial stress — really feel like losing a year? It occurred to me that perhaps Maher and Barrymore, who both reportedly have over $100 million, are not bringing their shows back for financial gain. They’re doing it because they simply do not know what else to do with themselves. (Both also claimed they were doing this to assuage below-the-line suffering, which rings false. Many famous showrunners and TV hosts paid their workforce throughout the strike to support their staff without crossing a picket line. Maher and Barrymore could’ve easily done so without financial stress.)
Is there nothing else to life than making money and “staying relevant”? Is it so hard to sit still with yourself that it’s worth crossing a picket line? May I suggest using your endless money to travel the world? Perhaps you might start a charity foundation or get involved with somebody else’s? Do you know what else rules? Spending quality time with family and friends. Oh, and reading! Read a classic book! You could even write a book. Or go climb Mount Everest! Meditate with the Dalai Lama! There are so many wonderful things you can do with endless time and money that are not crossing a picket line to work more.
Of course, we live in a society that teaches the capitalist lie that our worth is correlated to our career and financial success.
When the WGA deal was announced Sunday night, I watched hilarious videos from Ryan O’Connell’s Instagram poking fun at this general idea. I’m paraphrasing here because the stories are now gone, but they essentially said “Congratulations to everybody who can go back to getting their value from their job, these past few months have been so hard… we’ve had to ask people ‘How are you’ instead of ‘What are you working on’… we’ve had to see people as having value for who they are, not because they might be valuable to us.”
Hollywood and many other industries are built off of networking. There is nothing inherently wrong with ambition, being busy, or expanding your connections. But measuring your value by your job — and only valuing others based on their success — leads directly to unhappiness and fake friendships.
I implore those who feel worthless without the “right” job or accomplishment to search for happiness elsewhere. Where? You already know the answer. Don’t make me say it. I have to? Because this isn’t a conversation? Okay, fine: From within.
Getting that job is not the thing that will fix your life. Nothing will. You will only keep grasping for more. You are of value because you were born. In a true miracle of chance, you were created by the world. No human being is worth more than any other human being. The only “fix” is to recognize this truth and to remind yourself of it until you truly feel it — that you are full of inherent value and love. And of course, it also helps to recognize that if you’re rich and famous and have a talk show, you should always support labor unions, and never be a scab.
Some questions for journaling prompts, and/or to discuss in the comments:
List 10 things beyond your job that make you feel valued and happy.
What is your current relationship to work and success?
In what ways do you resist stillness? Why?
I am a member of this online market that offers wholesale prices on goods, hence the name. Beyond the low prices, everything is sustainable, organic, and made without toxic chemicals. Did you know products like toilet paper and dental floss are filled with PFAS, which are also known as forever chemicals? And we put them directly into our gums or buttholes! (Sorry). I could rant about how our government poisons us while pocketing money from the chemical industry, but instead, I’ll say that detoxifying my house with Public Goods products felt great, and you might want to do the same.
As somebody who attended Stagedoor Manor for three summers, this film spoke directly to me. If you were (or are) a theater kid, or simply love musical theater, watch this delightful movie on Hulu. It’s hilarious, silly, and heartwarming.
With the WGA strike coming to an end, and the SAG strike likely moving towards negotiations(!), let’s turn our attention to the UAW’s fight for a fair contract. CEO pay is disgustingly out of control. Workers deserve a fair share of the products they create in all sectors of the labor force.
Speaking of union power, I’ll leave you with this inspiring quote from Daily Show writer Devin Delliquanti:
The hardest moment [of the WGA strike] was when the host of a podcast I listen to (Professor Scott Galloway on Pivot) said that the studios would break the back of our union. They would wait us out, and we had no leverage, and it was a mistake, and it would ruin us and leave us worse off. And now here we are — winning all our very fair asks. I don’t begrudge him that take, because he didn’t see what we saw. The resolve and fearlessness in the WGA, and everyone in SAG who stood up, and everyone in IATSE and the Teamsters and the crews who stood up with us, who we owe our eternal thanks and our solidarity forever.
But I just want to say that when you stand up and fight, people tell you that you will lose. And people tell you that they will break the back of your union. And that it was a mistake. And that you should be grateful for what little they offered at first, even if it’s crumbs. Don’t believe them. Stand up and fight for what you’re worth. Because fear is their weapon, but solidarity is ours.
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