“Pay Your Writers”: David Zaslav Gets Booed as Boston University Commencement Speaker
As the 2023 writers strike rages on with no clear end in sight, some 12,000 screenwriters have been picketing for a new and fair contract with the industry’s major studios. Over the weekend, Warner Bros. Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav was met directly with hundreds of such protesters, who gathered to boo and chant during his commencement address at Boston University on Sunday.
While delivering a speech to 2023 graduates and receiving an honorary degree, Zaslav paused at various points over the course of his 20-minute remarks, according to The Hollywood Reporter, due to interruptions from a crowd yelling “We don’t want you here,” “Pay your writers,” and “Shut up, Zaslav.” Before he could even utter a word, an airplane banner with the message “David Zaslav – Pay Your Writers” could be seen flying above the picket and commencement.
In response to the protests, the Writers Guild of America East tweeted: “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.”
Bernie Sanders retweeted the guild’s message, 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.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez similarly showed her support on social media.
When Boston University announced, only two days after the writers strike began, that Zaslav would give the commencement speech, the WGA East expressed its intention to picket and declared its “deep disappoint with the university over its poor decision.” In a statement to The Boston Globe, the guild added that “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.”
Both Zaslav and Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos spoke out in support of a deal with the writers prior to the strike, but no negotiation could be agreed upon. “In order to create great storytelling, we need great writers, and we need the whole industry to work together,” Zaslav said in a recent CNBC interview. “And everybody deserves to be paid fairly. So our number one focus is, let’s try and get this resolved.”