From today’s New York Times:
Last month, in an interview about Warner Bros. Discovery’s $50 million streaming profit in the first quarter of 2023, the company’s chief executive, David Zaslav, told CNBC that he believed the Writers Guild of America strike would ultimately end because of “a love for the business and a love for working.”
As the sixth week of the strike begins, the writers’ persistence reveals a sharper truth: Love, unfortunately, doesn’t pay the bills.
The implication that love is a suitable stand-in for job security, workplace protections or fair pay is a commonly held belief, especially in so-called dream jobs like writing, cooking and working in the arts, where the privilege to do the work is seen as a form of compensation itself.
But the rhetoric that a job is a passion or a “labor of love” obfuscates the reality that a job is an economic contract. The assumption that it isn’t sets up the conditions for exploitation.
Indeed, creative, mission-driven and prestigious jobs often take advantage of employees’ love for what they do. According to one 2020 study, employers see poor treatment of workers — such as expecting overtime work without pay or asking people to do demeaning tasks that aren’t part of their job descriptions — as more acceptable if the workers are thought to be passionate about what they do. This stems from bosses’ tacit assumptions that their employees would do the work even if they weren’t paid.
That seems to be the message some W.G.A. members have gotten. “Writing is a noble vocation,” says Charles Rogers, a writer and showrunner who is on strike in Los Angeles. “But the industry is set up to make writers feel like they should be grateful just to be here.” Employers then rely on employees’ indebtedness and the proverbial line of people out the door who would happily take their places to justify paying them less than they deserve.
The idea that employees work for something other than money is also pervasive in industries that are geared toward helping people, such as education. “Teaching is a calling,” tweeted Mayor Eric Adams of New York City a few weeks ago. “You don’t do it for the money, you do it because you believe in the kids that come into your classrooms.”
That may sound like reverence, but the New York City teachers’ union contract expired last September, and Mr. Adams has resisted pay increases that keep up with inflation. Teachers need better compensation, not platitudes celebrating teacher appreciation week.
Read the complete story here.