The idea of the likes of “Grey’s Anatomy” writer Shonda Rhimes on the picket line because of her measly $5 million salary may be laughable–can’t wait to see Tom Hanks out there protesting his $25 million/film–but the Hollywood writer’s strike is a good reminder that everyone in our entertainment industry is not a multimillionaire. In truth, there are a lot of low-paid, struggling writers, crew members, extras, etc., without whom we wouldn’t have a “Grey’s Anatomy” or any of the other shows and movies we’re so addicted to. Most of the coverage of the Hollywood writers strike has focused on the shows that will go dark–Leno reruns, anyone?–but let’s not forget that there are people, with families and careers to worry about, marching those picket lines.

The N.Y. Times reports today that, Rhimes’s millions aside, many Hollywood writers make under $50K, and a full 48 percent of West Coast union members are unemployed. Sure, plenty of others make six figures, and I’m not exactly weeping for them. But at the heart of the strike is a basic issue of fairness: Writers are being asked to do more work writing for new platforms, like webisodes and DVD extras and are seeking a higher share of profits from those products.

The Times quotes one writer saying, “A lot of the public probably feels like we are brats…. We are not hospital workers and firefighters, we know that–the world is going to keep turning. But I think everyone understands that the issue of corporate greed versus the needs of workers and their families.”
It’s a welcome bit of perspective, but thank God we are all not judged every day and every contract against hospital workers and firefighters, true heroes who deserve every pay raise they can get. Still, being treated with dignity, getting paid extra for extra work, and sharing in a fair portion of profits seem like causes we can all relate to and rally behind.
And kudos for the writers on strike who haven’t lost their sense of humor. One slogan heard on the picket line: “No money? No downloads. No downloads? No peace.”

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