On May 2, 2023, The Writers Guild of America (WGA), a joint effort between two labor unions representing over 11,000 writers in film, television, radio and online media, began their strike, per their demands, for higher pay and a stable pay structure, fairer deals and contracts, and regulations about the use of artificial intelligence from replacing writers from the writers’ room. Since that day in May, writers have continuously been picketing outside all major studios such as Netflix, Amazon, Universal Studios, and more.
Not soon after all of Hollywood’s writers went on strike, Hollywood’s actors were also unable to reach sufficient negotiations with studioheads. On July 14, 2023, The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), who represent roughly over 160,000 performers, went on strike, joining the WGA members. SAG-AFTRA members are demanding from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) a change to their contracts to take into account the changes in the industry from streaming services and provide a greater formula for residuals, as well as other stipulations. Similar to the WGA strikes, SAG-AFTRA is also demanding regulation on artificial intelligence technologies, to prevent the replacement of actors and actresses on set with digital doubles.
It’s been the first time since 1960 when both actors and writers were on strike simultaneously and it is expected to surpass the 21-week duration of the 1960 strikes. AMPTP is unwilling to accept the demands of both writers and actors, claiming that their demands are unrealistic. Simultaneously, they are pretending that the industry can do without either actors or writers. According to Variety, “Warner Bros. Discovery execs reported that the Hollywood writer and actors’ ongoing work stoppage had brought the company savings in the ‘low $100 million range’ during its Q2 earnings results,” demeaning their efforts to better their livelihoods and rights in the Hollywood industry.
Meanwhile, some struck shows and movies are proceeding in some studios, and some with the use of scab actors and writers. The act of “scabbing” is offensive for these strikes as it signifies crossing the picket line and diminishes the work the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are attempting to do. Drew Barrymore recently attempted to do so with her “The Drew Barrymore Show,” but after public outcry, she shut the project down.
If the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA members achieve their demands, this would mean for a brand new start and a historic change for Hollywood as a whole. As consumers of entertainment, we have an obligation to do everything we can to support these labor unions as they try to reach fair negotiations with AMPTP. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for when these strikes will end, and it is currently pushing the limit as the fall season rolls over and there are no new shows to premiere and no promotion for new films. However, we must all support their efforts and provide support if we can, such as contributing to community funds and amplifying aid via social media for the unemployed performers and writers on strike.