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Why Thousands (Including Me) Could Become Collateral Damage If the WGA Writer’s Strike Continues

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At 12:01am this morning, the Writer’s Guild of American officially went on strike, stopping the writing of scripts and bringing Hollywood (and even to a lesser degree the rest of the world) to a filming halt. The WGA’s argument is that they deserve residuals on the content they write when it comes to streaming platforms, which bares similarities to their strike of 2007 when the fight was over DVD residuals which ground Hollywood to a halt for a full 100 days. Back then I wasn’t in the industry, so all I did was miss out on new episodes of Scrubs while I doubled down on Netflix DVDs.

The olden days.

This time around, the rules have changed. I’ve been in the industry for now 13 years as of last week, and have a far greater understanding of what the fight is over. For what it’s worth, I fully understand where the WGA is coming from, and personally, I side with them. Those folks bust their ass to generate content and they should get residuals and security from the changing world of AI and the likes of ChatGPT. However what I’m talking about is the impact it has on people like myself and my family, as in this case, we’re in danger of losing our health insurance.

Being in SAG, I’ve qualified for Health Insurance every single year since 2014. Absolutely one of the weirder flexes out there, but a flex people in SAG would understand. This is where personally my wife and I are concerned. With our situation my wife earns more income for us as a per-diem employee, but in return I get the health insurance. It’s been our system for years and works out amazingly. The added income became even more important as 9 months ago her mother moved in with us so we view income differently. As the strike lingers on we risk losing that insurance giving us two options: Cobra or Full Time for her. Cobra is $1,000 a month, full time for her and a heavy drop in income and for those wondering why I haven’t said Obamacare, that clocked in at a crushing $2,000 per month, so that’s out.

Cobra would at least give us coverage through 2024, but I’m still required to hit my numbers to get off that and back to regular SAG insurance which means starting at square one and losing an exception first quarter of my qualification window; where I earned nearly half of my required numbers. SAG has shown in the past a very, “We apologize for any inconvenience” when it comes to circumstances impacting qualifying for insurance as the Covid shutdown showed us. With a 6 month industry shutdown, the gave no assistance to it’s union members, in fact, making it MORE challenging by removing residuals as an option to qualify which greatly impacted retirees and leading to the lawsuit spearheaded by the late Ed Asner, himself a former president of SAG.

This is the collateral damage I spoke of at the beginning. This is simply one story of hundreds to thousands affected by this strike. The families of set designers, ADs, gaff, electrical, PAs and so on are now scrambling to make sure the bills get paid and their families are taken care of. Sadly, little is spoken of when it comes to the people caught outside of this war. It’s a passing reference and the occasional, “Well that sucks, but it ain’t me” mentality that the world and even myself have. It’s always a problem for someone else until it becomes a problem for you, and then you’re the someone else. For the thousands of us stuck in the middle of this war, the longer it takes, the greater the impact. I fully expect many families who have been lived by income working full time in the film industry will fall behind on the bills, resort to credit cards and for some, bankruptcy and eviction will happen. Even to people I know personally.

And that’s scary AF.

About the author – Scott Churchson has been an actor in every way for the past 13 years, from BG to stand in to stunts and principal, a sports writer for the past 4 and is one of the people that created Stream Punk Entertainment. He’s married to a veterinarian, has a cat with three working legs, a mother-in-law who just moved in and is just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe.

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