Can small, independent businesses go on strike?

From my vantage point as an uninterested (except as a viewer of Lost) observer of the current Writers Guild strike, I’ve wondered if the concept of “union” or “stike” can even hold up in an industry that’s all about independent businesses and self-employed individuals collaborating briefly on a project and then moving on to another project with other independent businesses and other self-employed individuals.

In other words, we’re not talking about a steel mill or auto plant — or even a professional sports league benefitting from government sanctioned monopoly protection. We’re talking about, to a large degree, an industry where even the most steady job with a company, say, staff writer on a network TV show, is guaranteed to end in a few years (but most likely, months) and you’re already working on your next gig.

I understand that, in this context, the use of the word “guild” is more appropriate than “union,” but still, is this a workable model today?

The LA Times reports that groups of striking writers are developing Web start-ups. I suppose it’s obvious to everyone with even a modicum of smarts to observe that Will Ferrill’s Funny or Die is not only benefiting from the strike, it’s a launch pad for a wide array of ideas.

I don’t “follow” the entertainment industry, so I’m sure there are many savvy folks wrtiting about the business aspects of what’s taking place. However, I think an extended strike will be especially interesting to those of us who have always believed “user-generated content” was an incredibly inaccurate term to use when describing what individuals, rather than large corporations, do when they use the web to distribute their creations. In this case, the “users” are far from amateur.

This will be stuff worth watching. And frankly, the longer the strike endures, the more interesting it will be to watch.