Barack Obama Calls Out ‘Embattled’ Studios and Streamers During Panel for His Netflix Series: ‘I’m Very Supportive of the Writers’
Former President Barack Obama opened Netflix’s livestream event for his new docuseries, “Working: What We Do All Day,” on Thursday with a more aggressive statement of support for the Writers Guild of America (WGA) than what he initially said in solidarity with the ongoing writers strike.
Before the panel, which aired on LinkedIn at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT, got underway, moderator Ira Glass revealed Obama had prepared remarks he wanted to deliver about the WGA’s work stoppage, which is currently in its fourth week.
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“Part of what this show ‘Working’ is about is how certain things are constant about the work experience. People trying to find work that’s satisfying, people trying to pay the bills,” Obama said. “Unfortunately one of the things that’s also been constant is the struggle for people to make sure their employers are treating them fairly and they’re getting a fair share of the pie. I think what we’ve seen throughout American history is that unions and worker organizations have had to make demands on their employers, those that are controlling whatever industry they’re in, to make sure they’re treated fairly and entertainment is no exception. My hope would be that in a time of big technological change, where you’ve got big mega corporations that are doing really well, that they keep in mind the creative people who are actually making the product that consumers appreciate and that gets exported all around the world.
“I know there are many studios and streamers who feel a little bit embattled and there’s been a little bit too much of a glut of product and they’re looking at their bottom line and they’re experiencing shareholder pressure, etc,” he continued. “But the fact is, is that they wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for writers creating the stories that matter. My hope is that as somebody who’s really supportive of the Writer’s Guild and as someone who just believes in storytelling and the craft of it, I’m hoping that they will be compensated and the importance of what they do will be reflected in whatever settlement’s arrived at. I’m very supportive of the writers and the strike and I’m hopeful that they get a fair share of the fruits of their labor.”
Obama made his first statement about the writers strike May 16 in a lengthy Instagram post that promoted the May 17 launch of “Working,” writing in the fourth paragraph of the caption: “This series is also about making sure we respect everyone’s line of work — because we all deserve to be valued and treated with respect. That includes the friends I made in this series and everyone else who is fighting for fair compensation and new protections that reflect changing workplaces — including the members of the WGA who are on strike right now.”
Also participating on the panel were the docuseries’ director Caroline Suh and subjects Randi Williams, Luke Starcher and Karthik Lakshmanan.
Barack and former first lady Michelle Obama executive produce “Working: What We Do All Day” for Netflix through their Higher Ground Productions banner, which is under a deal with Netflix.
Suh also executive produces alongside Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Priya Swaminathan, Nicole Stott, Jonathan Silberberg, Tonia Davis, Davis Guggenheim and Laurene Powell Jobs. Emelia Brown serves as co-executive producer:
The series was inspired by Studs Terkel’s 1974 book “Working,” which revolutionized the conversation around work by asking ordinary people what they did all day.
Marc Malkin contributed to this story.
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