The Write Stuff

The Office returns to TV tonight, one of the first shows back after the writers' strike. David Madland examines what this means for the economy.

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As we settle into our couches tonight to watch “The Office” for the first time in months, few of us are likely to think about what the end of the writer’s strike means for the economy. Indeed, one of the reasons we watch television is to distract ourselves from worrying about issues like the collapsing housing market and the current economic slowdown.

But, as we press the “on” button on our remotes, we should give at least a moment’s thought to the writers’ impact on the economy. It’s not that the writers’ return to work will by itself generate an economic recovery—although estimates indicate that billions of dollars in wages and economic activity were lost during the strike—but rather, because what they did is one of the keys to our economic recovery.

By working together, as part of a union, writers—a relatively small and independent group of workers spread out across the country—were able to successfully negotiate with incredibly powerful multinational companies. The writers were able secure what they felt was fair pay for their labor, including compensation for work that is distributed on the web. Together, writers were able to ensure that they benefit from technological change and get a fair share of the revenue they help generate, no matter how their writing is distributed.

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project