May 24, 2024

We drove for 12 hours a day for six days in a row. Salary figures in the single digits. UPS drivers and Hollywood actors and writers, two completely different professions, have lodged concerns.

However, they do highlight a root cause of the recent upsurge in labor unrest: the price paid by workers whose roles have radically shifted as businesses adapt to the demands of a more impatient and savvy consumer base.

Those shifts were hastened by the COVID-19 epidemic, which prompted merchants to move their operations online and increased competition among streaming services. Workers are now attempting, from the picket lines, to educate viewers about what goes into making a show that can be watched on demand or a service that allows users to get dog food delivered to their home with the swipe of a smartphone.

Delivery drivers, Starbucks baristas, and airline pilots are just a few examples of the workers who have voiced complaints about being overworked and underpaid as a result of rising consumer demand and stagnant labor supply. Workers are fighting back against poor pay, long hours, and the use of temporary or part-time workers.

The first coordinated strike by Hollywood actors and writers in 40 years is being held over the impact streaming has had on the entertainment industry, including the reduction in wages and increased pressure on showrunners to generate material more quickly with fewer people.

When internet businesses move in, a lot of places end up like this. When we smash whom? Screenwriter and showrunner Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, who is part of the WGA’s negotiation team, has remarked, “It doesn’t matter.” WGA members have been on strike since May. The Writers Guild of America went on strike earlier this month, and it was soon followed by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Long-term payments, known as “residuals,” have been crucial to the careers of actors and authors due to the prevalence of reruns and other forms of repeat viewing. However, there is no such thing as reruns on streaming platforms; instead, shows and movies arrive and stay put, with no simple measure, like ratings or box office returns, to gauge their success.

As a result, the residuals that streaming businesses do pay are sometimes quite low—some screenwriters have even reported receiving checks with only a few digits.

Streaming has provided an abundance of parts for performers, and some of them, like Adam Shapiro of the Netflix hit “Never Have I Ever,” said they were initially prepared to accept lower salary. It’s no longer a novelty, but rather the future of the firm, he argued, thus a more long-term pay plan is urgently needed.

“Within the last decade, we’ve come to the conclusion, ‘Oh, that’s now how Hollywood operates. “Everything is streaming,” Shapiro stated at a recent union gathering.

Actor of 25 years Shapiro stated he accepted a contract for “Never Have I Ever” that paid only 20% of his usual wage because he saw the film as “a great opportunity, and it’s going to be all over the world.” Indeed, it did. Indeed, it was. It’s becoming painfully obvious to everyone that we can’t keep living like this and still pay our debts.

Another trend is the utilization of “mini rooms,” where a small team of writers is assembled for the duration of pre-production of a show that may or may not be picked up for airing.

The co-creator of the new Netflix show “Survival of the Thickest,” Ben Sanchez-Witzel, has claimed that TV productions typically recruit large writing staffs for the period of production. However, Netflix did not permit her to keep her team of five writers into pre-production, so she was left working on rewrites with only one other writer around the clock.

“It’s not sustainable, and I’ll never do that again,” she declared.

Sanchez-Witzel was inspired to join the WGA demonstrations after hearing that UPS drivers were having similar experiences and were considering a strike of their own, which could have a devastating impact on the company. A strike was averted last week when negotiations between UPS and the Teamsters led to a tentative agreement.

Full-time UPS driver Jeffrey Palmerino from the Albany, New York area noted that mandatory overtime became a major problem during the epidemic as drivers dealt with a surge in orders on par with the holiday season. The standard was for drivers to spend 14 hours a day in trucks without air conditioning, and they never knew when they would get home or if they would receive two days off a week.

For two years in a row, it felt like Christmas time had been supercharged. Many of us were required to work six days a week, and that’s no way to live,” said Palmerino, a Teamsters shop steward.

Palmerino is hopeful that the concessions gained by the Teamsters, which include wage rises and air conditioning, would reduce worker stress. UPS has agreed to stop requiring its drivers to work extra on their days off and to promote those who perform weekend shifts but are paid less to full-time status. Union members have not yet voted to approve the contract.

Teamsters and labor advocates praised the tentative agreement, saying it will force other corporations to increase standards in the face of labor unrest. However, a comparable conclusion is by no means assured in sectors where companies like UPS and its 340,000-strong union are not essential to the economy.

Both Starbucks and Amazon fought hard against unionization efforts, which ultimately failed.

According to Patricia Campos-Medina, executive director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, who led a study that found a 52% increase in labor strikes in 2022, labor protests are likely to gain momentum after the UPS contract.

During the pandemic, people stopped caring about things like consumer convenience. “We started to think, ‘I’m at home ordering, but there is actually a worker who has to go to the grocery store, who has to cook this for me so that I can be comfortable,'” Campos-Medina said.

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