After failed labor negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) earlier in the year, on May 2 the WGA (Writers Guild of America) officially began striking. Today, September 6th, marks the 128th day of the strike, with no end in sight.
I can’t help but feel that the writers strike is the perfect encapsulation of the many issues facing the working class. Artificial Intelligence (AI), low wages, and fewer opportunities have riddled many sectors of work, but none have been hit harder than the entertainment industry.
The divide between upper class billionaires and seemingly everyone else keeps growing. First it was Elon Musk’s extremely questionable acquisition and modifications to Twitter (now called X), then the Titan submarine sinking, and now massive Hollywood corporations refusing to pay employees livable wages.
WGA is not even asking for much, as their demands include:
- Increased Pay
- Better Residuals
- Staffing Requirements
- Shorter Exclusivity Deals
- Assurances on AI
Many of these demands arose from the popularity of streaming. In the past, TV shows had about 22 episodes in a season, such as “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Supernatural”. But now with all the “filler” content being cut, which I am actually quite sad about, many streaming series currently range from 6-10 episodes, such as Stranger Things or Good Omens.
Due to more episodes of seasons being cut, writers are hired for a short amount of time, which affects both pay and residuals. Although writers are hired for a shorter amount of time, exclusivity deals keep writers from finding work faster. Additionally, the lack of episodes means less writers to begin with, leading to the WGA’s demands for companies to hire more writers and achieve a certain staffing requirement. Last but not least, the concern that I’m most afraid of—the AI debacle.
I wholeheartedly believe that humans are meant to create, so hearing that AI is taking jobs from people in the entertainment industry is extremely disheartening. The thought of using AI as a tool always gets brought up and I’ll be honest, even using AI solely as a tool still seems icky to me. But have I used ChatGPT as a tool? Yes. Did I find it useful? Yeah. I would love to say that the AI taking jobs trend will eventually stop and AI will solely be used as a tool but I just can’t imagine that happening. Like I said, I feel that humans are meant to create, if we are no longer creating then what will we do in our free time? So it's no wonder that the WGA is asking for assurance regarding AI.
These demands are really not a lot, it's simply people asking to make a livable wage. It's been 128 days, and while companies have given offers, none provide what the WGA is asking for. Many of the offers even had loopholes that would just put writers back to square one.
The actions of the big corporations to deter the strike disgust me. Many CEOs of these Hollywood studios have said downright ridiculous things in regards to the writers’ strike. Forbes reported in 2019 that Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, is worth 690 million dollars. Talking to CNBC’s David Faber, Bob Iger had this to say about the writers strike:
“There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
Mind you, the man with a networth of 690 million dollars, who is the CEO of one of the biggest corporations in the world is out there complaining about writers supposed “unrealistic” expectations. Plus, isn’t the point of a strike to be very disruptive? If you have a non disruptive strike, then what's the point in striking?
Additionally, an unnamed studio executive told Deadline that “the endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.”
I just don’t understand the way these studio executives think. They make oodles of money they will probably never even use, but simply won’t pay the people that make their businesses function.
The list of nasty things said and done by studios to try and deter strikers unfortunately just continues. For example, in a disgustingly petty act, Universal cut off the branches of trees that provided shade for the picketers, exposing them to Los Angeles' already brutal heat in the middle of a heat wave. Fortunately, the city of Los Angeles was able to fine Universal for this action. Unfortunately, it was a measly 250 dollars; nothing compared to the expansive wealth of Universal.
While the writers strike seems to be just an annoying pest for Hollywood companies, the effects of the strike have already become apparent. Many popular shows have either started showing reruns or pushed back production. Late night shows like “Saturday Night Live”, “The Late Show with Steven Colbert”, and “The Tonight Show” haven’t had a new episode since May 2023. Additionally, popular streaming series have had major delays. For instance, the eagerly awaited season five of “Stranger Things” has now been pushed back to mid-2024. Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s “Blade” also shut down its pre-production. Meanwhile, “Abbott Elementary” season 3 won’t air until 2024. On the other hand, “Euphoria” season 3 is rumored to air anytime from late 2024 to 2026. Lastly, “The Last Of Us” season 2 has been pushed back to late 2025 or early 2026. These dates are still subject to change depending on if the strikes continue for longer.
It has been 128 days of striking for the WGA, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are doing something that I think most of us wish we could be doing – giving a giant middle finger to the millionaires and billionaires who seemingly have no sympathy for people just trying to live their lives and do what they enjoy. Well I say, keep marching on and keep those spirits high ‘cause I’m all for it.