We welcome former Writers Guild of America (West) president and current co-chair of the negotiating committee, David Goodman, who also happens to be the head writer for many of your favorite TV shows like “The Family Guy” to tell us why TV and movie writers are on strike. Then, grad students Sandra Oseguera and Jesus Gutierrez stop by to update us on their continuing fight to save the anthropology library at UC Berkeley, a battle that has wider implications for how more and more universities across the country are becoming corporatized. Plus, Ralph highlights some trenchant listener feedback.
Although I am admittedly not a major consumer of television shows and films, I support the WGA writers and hope the writers are able to achieve their goals. The WGA’s proposal of having a minimum number of writers per project seems completely reasonable to me and that is probably necessary to maintain a profession of professionals as opposed to ‘gig economy’ nonsense which will require writers to maintain multiple jobs all without stability and all with very poor pay and benefits.
While we are on this topic, I would like to put a little bit of a spotlight on another arts and entertainment field which, in my opinion, needs greater support across the country. Several orchestras and music organizations across the country are struggling for support. To give a local example in Texas, the San Antonio Symphony, an orchestra with over a century of history in one of the US’s largest and most diverse cities, disbanded in 2022 after the unionized musicians were asked to make major concessions. The final offer to the union would have cut the number of full-time musicians down to 42 from 72. The salaries for those full-time musicians would have been cut from $36,000 to $24,000. Even in San Antonio, $24,000/year is not even remotely a livable wage and so the offer was rejected by the union. The orchestra was then dissolved.
In addition to having a livable wage, it is important for musicians to have expanded medical coverage and medical leave as work-related injuries such as repetitive motion injuries and hearing damage are not uncommon for orchestral musicians. Given cutbacks and anti-union companies being unwilling to donate to unionized orchestras, there are many musical organizations and musicians which are struggling to make a living in music. Ideally, there would be greater public support for musicians and the benefits they give to their communities, but this does not get much attention. That’s why I thought to mention it here.
Furthermore, on the topic of specialized academic libraries, I’m sure there will be some pressure to cut the budgets for music libraries at universities. Music recordings can be streamed and online music databases offer music scores, which might be used to justify decreases in physical holdings and library staff, but having materials online often makes retrieval more challenging and so it is important to have library staff with specialized training to know how to find the materials requested by students and faculty. Also, given the obscene pricing on some of these electronic databases and issues with publishers removing their materials from databases, it probably makes sense for music libraries to retain their physical holdings especially for materials which were already purchased.
Ralph and Gang: Can you please do an updated segment on The Debt Ceiling and CORPORATE SUBSIDIES that should be on the chopping block? That right there could balance the budget!
Thank You for a podcast with a wealth of actionable information.