As of August 7, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has been on strike for 14 weeks and the Screen Actors Guild has been on strike for 3 weeks.
On May 2, after six weeks of discussion with major companies like Netflix, Sony, and Discovery-Warner through the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the WGA called for a strike. According to the WGA, these major production companies have turned the profession into a gig-based economy, turning to day rates over hourly rates, with no guarantee of work from week to week.
Furthermore, artificial intelligence (AI) poses a threat as a cheaper alternative to replace human writers, and the popularity of streaming services has massively cut into the residual pay that both writers and actors receive.
On July 14, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike in solidarity with the WGA. SAG-AFTRA says it is fighting for several things, including: inflation-adjusted pay; respect; qualified hairstylists and makeup artists for POC; and protection against threats posed by streaming and AI.
On August 4, the WGA and AMPTP met for negotiations, and the WGA reports that the AMPTP increased its offer on some topics including AI, but other major concerns like residuals, a royalty paid to the performer or writer, are still left untouched. The strike will carry on into the foreseeable future.
For many of us, this strike has little direct effect on our lives— other than potentially decreasing the quality of television programming and postponing movies for the foreseeable future. However, much more is at stake.
It is a visible example of how widespread unfair working conditions have become; some 75,000 are on strike.
With no end to the strike in sight, it may mean that the AMPTP intends to wait until strikers are out of money and in a more vulnerable position. Though no official statement has been made, one Deadline report cites a studio executive saying, “The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses.” If the AMPTP does attempt to wait out the strikes, the strikes’ only hope of success becomes the generosity of those who provide outside support.
As the actors and writers proceed into a period of increased vulnerability, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes, as I often am: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (4:9-10). Unions are created for this very reason, so they might support each other and fight together. As the strikes continue, I hope that we will support these unions and that they are not abandoned in their weakness.
This is not a fight that one can win alone. Though many reading this are not out on picket lines, we must consider what is being fought for, and how we can help others up while they are down.
Studying Management Information Systems with a minor in Data Science at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, after graduation, Ball plans on pursuing a career in data science. She is a Good Faith Media Ernest C. Hynds Jr. intern for summer 2023.