For the first time in a decade, Hollywood is facing the threat of a major strike. Writers, who power almost everything the movie and television factories make, want better pay and the shoring up of a faltering health care plan. Studios, while open to some raises, have so far proposed health care changes that many writers consider rollbacks.
Should a walkout happen — with its contract expiring on May 1, the Writers Guild of America last week asked members to give it the authority to call a strike — Howard A. Rodman will be among those leading the charge. While not prone to public grandstanding, Mr. Rodman, president of the Writers Guild, West, is a behind-the-scenes firebrand.
He was elected in 2015 after vowing to get tough with studios. Labor conflict is in his blood; his father, also a writer, was a combative guild figure.
Speaking by phone, Mr. Rodman insisted that writers, despite a Netflix-fueled boom in television, were being left behind by the industry. TV seasons are shorter. Networks are showing fewer reruns, limiting residuals. Studios are also making fewer movies and cutting back on paying to polish scripts.
“Without beginning with the script — whether it is television, it’s film, it’s new media — none of the rest of the larger machine functions at all,” he said. “That needs to be deeply recognized by the industry. We need to be compensated in a way that is just and proportionate to our contribution.”
Mr. Rodman, a former journalist known for indie films like “Savage Grace,” declined to discuss the negotiations, which will resume on Monday after breaking off late last month. Asked about the economic impact of a strike — the 100-day writers walkout in 2007-2008 cost the Los Angeles economy about $2.5 billion — Mr. Rodman chose his words carefully.
“The leadership of the guild is experienced and deeply aware of the concerns of its members,” he said. “None of us takes any of this casually.” Voting for a strike authorization will conclude on April 24. It will most likely pass. After that, Mr. Rodman and his cohorts will have to decide what to do next.
This piece originally appeared in the New York Times.