Hollywood is putting Soap Operas on blast amid strike

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Episode Ò14689Ó - ÒGeneral Hospital" airs Monday-Friday, on ABC (check local listings). (ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)GENIE FRANCIS
GENERAL HOSPITAL - Episode Ò14689Ó - ÒGeneral Hospital" airs Monday-Friday, on ABC (check local listings). (ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)GENIE FRANCIS /

While SAG-AFTRA and WGA fight the good fight to get what they deserve in television, (which we are in full support of) certain actors have taken to social media to speak on their displeasure of the soap opera universe.

The displeasure stems from the fact they continue to be on air and not stand in support of the strike. Especially now since General Hospital will be using what are known as scab writers for the first time this week.

What are scab writers?

A scab writer is someone who crosses the picket line to replace a union worker during a strike. It is very looked down upon in the industry. So much so that after the strike is over they are usually blacklisted. This is done on a television series that cannot be shut down during a strike.

This week, General Hospital has come to the end of the scripts from their union writers and now has chosen to bring on scab writers. It’s not an ideal situation but it is one that has to be done. And here is why.

As heartbreaking as it is for the writers to have to hand their characters and stories over to strangers it’s something that has to be done for the livelihood of the show. As some of you may know, sadly soap operas have become a thing of the past. There used to be dozens on air and now there are just a select few left, General Hospital being one of them

“I stand with the WGA and union-written film and television. I stand with my show, which employs dozens of cast and crew. Both things can be true at once,” wrote General Hospital writer Shannon Peace on Instagram addressing the decision. 

Though it’s heartbreaking for her she knows all too well about what could happen if the show was taken off air. It’s a very possible scenario that it wouldn’t come back. Leaving her and other strong black female writers out of a job. Something that was rarely ever seen in a writers’ room of the past for soap operas.

Why are Soap Operas exempt from having to stop filming?

Soap actors are a part of SAG-AFTRA but it becomes a unique situation because they work under a different code than primetime actors. The Netcode contract is short for the National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting and is primarily used for non-primetime shows, reality shows, games, and news shows. In essence, the actors are required to keep working under their contract. That contract will still run another full year to July 2024.

It’s not that they don’t stand with everyone, of course, they do as they are part of SAG-AFTRA and know also that great writing is the core and heartbeat of the show. It’s a legality situation. The reason this comes to fruition now is because soap operas generally write and film months in advance.

Now here’s where it gets a little hairy. The writers are of course not permitted to write that’s why non-union workers get hired. It’s a way to work around the system and still allow the show to be on the air. Just as SAG-AFTRA members are on the picket line worried about their livelihood, the soap cast and crew are worried about the same thing. They of course want fair pay for the people who make their characters come to life. Having people come in you don’t necessarily trust to write for your character is something the actors can’t be pleased with. But for now, this is the reality.

Lisa Ann Walter from Abbot Elementary had much to say on the topic of General Hospital hiring non-union writers.

Lisa Ann Walter takes no stab at the actors of course but to the scab writers are who she thinks are busting up the union. She believes that in order for success everyone needs to be on strike in solidarity. Including all actors and writers. Saying the Fi-Core writers( and other non-WGA writers) are not to be writing under a struck contract work (WGA writers from GH). When the soap actors are under a Netcode contract and have to continue work. If there are no writers there is no work. And everyone could truly stand together and fight in unity.

What are Fi-Core workers?

Financial Core, otherwise known as Fi-Core are non-union writers who cannot run or vote in any union elections. Basically, they are fee-paying non-members. In the past, there have been WGA writers who resigned to transfer to become a financial core writer. The industry sees it as greedy and has little respect for it. It inhibits the purpose of the strike in many eyes.

The ones you truly need to blame are the higher-ups in charge that allow this to happen. WGA writers make huge sacrifices for themselves and their families to strike while heads of the network continue to cash in. Most in the soap opera genre are not making huge bank to begin with. 85 percent of actors in the SAG-AFTRA make less than 26K a year.

Unfortunately, soaps are a dying breed and have been for a long time. There is that argument about why Fi-Core writers are needed and I do not disagree. But I also feel like those writers are cashing in on other writers’ glory and profit. And they could very well come in and make soaps twice as worse with the story and the writing. There are writers’ rooms for a reason. Hopefully by the time the strike is over they don’t completely run General Hospital into the ground.

As for the future they need to change these contracts so all SAG-AFTRA members have the opportunity to stand and fight alongside their friends. Together they are stronger. Implement a plan to allow soap operas to not be dismantled during a strike but to also have both writers and actors under a contract that is fair for all. We have already lost too many soap operas that people have spent decades watching. Soaps are deeply rooted in the history of television and broadcasting. To some, it may be a silly dramatic story but to others, there is deep care and love for these characters, the show, and its actors a lot of us grew up watching and admiring. Let’s not lose anymore.

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