Since the first writers’ strike of 1960, there have been 12 U.S. presidents – five Democrats and seven Republicans, and yet all six WGA strikes occurred during Republican administrations. And if the guild launches its seventh strike in May, as threatened, it will once again be under a Republican administration.
There weren’t any WGA strikes during the presidencies of Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lyndon Johnson or John F. Kennedy. But there was one during the presidency of George W. Bush (the 100 day strike of 2007-08, pictured above); three during Ronald Reagan’s presidency (the 22-week strike of 1988, the two-week strike of 1985 and the 13-week strike of 1981); one during Richard Nixon’s (the 16-week strike of 1973); and one during Dwight Eisenhower’s (the 21-week strike of 1960).
Among Republicans, only the 2 ½-year term of Gerald Ford and the 4-year presidency of George H.W. Bush saw no strikes by writers.
In the 57 years since the first writers’ strike, a Republican has been in the White House for 29 years, and Democrats for 28 years – roughly 50-50. So it’s a statistical oddity that writers’ strikes have only taken place during the reign of one political party. But does it mean anything, or is it just a coincidence?
It could be that writers – and unionized workers in general – feel more under siege during Republican administrations, which are generally seen as more hostile to organized labor, and thus feel more inclined to strike in order to hold on to the hard-won gains they’d achieved over the years, or to fend off perceived rollbacks.
And it could be that employers feel more emboldened during Republican administrations, which are generally seen as more friendly to business, and thus feel more empowered to take a harder line at the bargaining table.
And then again, it could just be an interesting coincidence, as the history of strikes in the entertainment industry have little or nothing to do with national politics and everything to do with the economics of the marketplace. But still, it’s interesting that there could be yet another writers strike during a Republican administration – this one in the early days of a Donald Trump presidency.