Those of you who have followed Bill Maher’s career in the past know all too well that the Real Time host is no stranger to garnering controversy. But according to Deadline, the WGA has a bone to pick with him for returning to work despite the ongoing WGA strike that has yet to be resolved.
“Bill Maher’s decision to go back on the air while his Guild is on strike is disappointing. If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than ‘the spirit of the strike.’ Bill Maher is obligated as a WGA member to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services. It is difficult to imagine how Real Time with Bill Maher can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. WGA will be picketing this show.”WGA statement
WGA members have criticized Maher for being a “scab” as they’ve referred to him online, and the guild has made plans to picket the show. Maher has expressed sympathy to the issues that writers at large are currently struggling with and hopes to see a resolution sooner rather than later.
In a social media announcement, Bill Maher expressed the need to bring people back to work, and he’s not the first person to express how dire the situation is for workers who aren’t involved with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike.
Director Joachim Rønning expressed similar disappointment when he had to lay off 150 crew members instead of filming Tron 3. In his September 13 statement, Bill Maher said that he would be going back to work “sans writers or writing.”
One of the unfortunate realities that we’re facing as the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes continue to drag out is that crew members have their own separate union that’s not currently striking because they successfully negotiated their contracts.
“Real Time is coming back, unfortunately, sans writers or writing. It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. The writers have important issues that I sympathize with, and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems, and concerns. Despite some assistance from me, much of the staff is struggling mightily.”Bill Maher
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) includes front of house workers, wardrobe attendants, hair and makeup artists, production technicians, designers, and several other lines of work that are being adversely affected by the current strike.
When you consider the fallout and collateral damage in the form of industry workers losing employment, returning to work seems like a noble effort on Bill Maher’s part. But sources suggest he’s violating WGA policy since he’s not adhering to the strike rules that are taking place, and is technically a writer for his own show. Just like Joachim Rønning’s criticism of the strike, Maher’s concerns are valid, but it’s clear that he’s going to have a hard time winning over the guild with his actions.
The WGA isn’t the only group dishing out criticism. New York State Senator Jabari Brisport posted on X, suggesting that Bill Maher is putting up a false front, and not scabbing for the right reasons. In his post, Brisport stated that Maher could simply pay his staff out of pocket instead of returning to work, and in doing so, stand in solidarity with his fellow writers while still taking care of his employees.
Brisport’s criticism of Bill Maher was met with mixed reception. While some users agree that Maher is acting out of pocket by crossing the picket lines, others suggest that it’s not his responsibility to pay his staff out of pocket when they could simply return to work, which many of them want to do.
Though Maher’s statement suggested that he’s providing some sort of assistance to his staff, they’re still struggling, which is why he feels the need to get Real Time back on the air, even without the aid of a writing staff.
But still, if Bill Maher’s intentions are pure, he still stands to lose face by crossing the picket line while everybody else is out of work.