Before he could say anything, an aeroplane banner with the message 'David Zaslav - Pay Your Writers' flew above the picket and commencement.
The 2023 Writers' Strike has halted Hollywood productions after negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and film studios failed to result in a new contract. It is the first strike since 2007, which has put screenwriters at odds with major studios such as Universal, Paramount, Walt Disney, Netflix, Amazon and Apple. Approximately 12,000 screenwriters have been picketing for a new and fair contract with the industry's major studios for the first time in 15 years. Hundreds of such protesters gathered to boo and chant during Warner Bros. Discovery president and CEO, David Zaslav's, commencement address at Nickerson Field, Boston University, over the weekend on May 22, reported Vanity Fair.
Zaslav getting hit with a Pay Your Writers chant in Boston. This is so good. pic.twitter.com/00pL4ahAqZ— Mike Scollins (@mikescollins) May 21, 2023
Videos circulating on social media appeared to show Boston University students chanting "Pay your writers" as school officials introduced Zaslav before his speech. According to The Hollywood Reporter, while delivering his commencement speech to 2023 graduates and receiving an honorary degree, Zaslav paused at various points during his 20-minute remarks due to interruptions from a crowd yelling, "We don't want you here," "Pay your writers" and "Shut up, Zaslav." Before he could say anything at all, an airplane banner with the message "David Zaslav - Pay Your Writers" flew above the picket and commencement.
Writers Guild of America, East, tweeted in response to the protest: "The WGA is thankful to all the B.U. graduates for chanting 'Pay your writers' at Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav while he delivered the #BU2023 commencement address."
The WGA is thankful to all the B.U. graduates for chanting "Pay your writers" at Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav while he delivered the #BU2023 commencement address. #WGAStrike https://t.co/p0kky3RyUp— Writers Guild of America, East (@WGAEast) May 21, 2023
US Senator for Vermont, Bernie Sanders, retweeted the message from the guild, adding, "If Warner Bros Discovery can afford to pay its CEO David Zaslav $286 million in compensation over the past 2 years, it can afford to pay its writers much better wages and benefits. Mr. Zaslav: Listen to the Boston University students and the Writers Guild. Pay your writers." US Representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, expressed her support on Twitter as well.
Before the strike, both Zaslav and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos spoke out in support of a deal with the writers, but it led to no mutual agreement. According to The Hollywood Reporter, in a CNBC "Squawk Box" interview, Zaslav said, "In order to create great storytelling, we need great writers, and we need the whole industry to work together. And everybody deserves to be paid fairly. So our number one focus is, let's try and get this resolved."
If Warner Bros Discovery can afford to pay its CEO David Zaslav $286 million in compensation over the past 2 years, it can afford to pay its writers much better wages and benefits. Mr. Zaslav: Listen to the Boston University students and the Writers Guild. Pay your writers. https://t.co/4uUzcUHVdr— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 22, 2023
When Boston University announced that Zaslav would give the commencement speech only two days after the writers' strike began, the WGA, East Guild, declared its intention to picket and stated in a statement to the Boston Globe, "Boston University should not give voice to someone who wants to destroy their students' ability to build a career in the film and television industry" and expressed its "deep disappointment with the university over its poor decision." Torres Medina, who is also a member of the guild and someone who received his master's degree in screenwriting from BU in 2015, stated, "It's horrifying. I think it's just a very 'read the room' moment for BU."