Beginning in May, 2023, 11.5 thousand screen-writers went on strike due to a labor dispute between the Writers Guild of America and the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). Considered the longest interruption since the Pandemic, it has now coincided with the SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) strike as part of a series of broader Hollywood strikes. The topics at the center of deliberation are: the poor compensation of writers, and the morality of AI in writing.
There’s been a worry among writers as to a possible replacement in AI, such as ChatGPT. They believe it should be used to support research and facilitate script ideas, and not as a replacement for writers. By using the infamous AI Drake and Weeknd collab to justify a lack of intuition amongst the public, studios aren’t opposed to using it for more content with free labor.
Another worry lies over the residual pay among writers. Residual pay has become a worry as it barely amounts to a livable wage. Around May of this year, the AMPTP presented a proposal to the Guild which included generous compensation and improvements in streaming residuals. But no response was given, leading to the very same labor dispute which initiated the Writers strike.
Interview with Thom Davis, 2nd International Vice President of IATSE, Business Manager Emeritus of IATSE Local 80 (Hollywood)
The IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) is a group of over 170,000 workers who create the media we love, known as "the union behind entertainment".
By Rose Lehane Tureen
RLT: Why is it important to support the striking entertainment industry workers?
TD: "It's a great morale boost for the writers and the actors to know that people outside of just their little community are supportive of them. Also, it's a tremendous morale boost for those people that are actually that are impacted by this as well…So if you take those people that were on those films and television shows that are out of work as a result of this, that they know that the general public of the public is also supportive, not just the strike, but also what they're going through it not only support but it's just acknowledged that there's more than just that small group."
RLT: How are unions like IATSE who are not on strike supporting the strikes?
TD: "One thing that's been interesting about this strike is the amount of support that the regular rank and file of the crew base. So on the picket lines for SAG and the writers I remember some of us showing up to walk the picket lines with them, even though they're not on strike. And I think the reason for this tremendous solidarity is because they understand that it's going to impact them as well."
RLT: What should high school students know about the strikes?
TD: "If there's one takeaway for high school students, is that as they're going through school, and as they're going through their lives, just to think back on all those things that that the labor movement has made possible for them in their everyday lives? It's gonna be their social safety nets; the general way that workers are to be treated and respected. Not to the degree that some of us would like, but there's at least a minimal amount, right? The basic things like, the 40 hour week and the weekend and those sorts of things, because there's so much that we take for granted that we don't realize where all this came from."
This writers strike affects more than just the film and media industry, it affects our daily lives in ways a food chain would affect an animal’s life; it’s simply too prominent in our lives and detrimental for us to ignore, if deemed unsuccessful.
Alvin Gachau & Rose Lehane Tureen