For the last 148 days, union members of the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America West have protested for fair wages and artificial intelligence concerns against major studios. On Sep. 26, the WGA ended their strike.
This is the second-longest strike in SAG-AFTRA history by five days, with the longest strike lasting 153 days in 1988.
The WGA is a union formed for writers in television, movies and media to have fair contracts with studios. This ensures that writers are fairly paid and contracts are followed. Similarly, SAG is a union for actors and performers to be protected from unfair contracts and wages in Hollywood.
The WGA announced that writers could go back to work while the voting is finalized for the new contract. Now that writers are allowed to go back to work, there is still a lot in store for everyone in the entertainment industry. A three-year contract has been signed with major studios including Walt Disney Studios, NBCUniversal, Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery.
This contract will be voted on by board members of the union. Some agreements stated in the contract include:
- Increase pay for residuals by 3.5%-5%.
- Writers will receive a bonus for being on popular streaming shows on Netflix, Max and more.
- TV shows will have six writers on staff for shows with at least 13 episodes. For shows with less than 13 episodes, there will be three writers on staff.
Ben Vasion, a senior digital film major from Washington, said “[The strike] was definitely a really good thing…some studio heads [said] some obscenely hanus things [about members of the union]…”
The strike stemmed from worries regarding the use of AI in the production of TV shows and movies. Union members have voiced their concerns on how ethical the use of AI is along with the fear of being replaced or having to compete with AI. The union and studios have come down to this agreement:
- AI will be listed as “literary material.” This means writers will not be competing with AI for screen credits in movies.
- Writers will not be required to use AI in any way while developing or writing a show. Writers can use AI but will have to approve it with studios under specific agreements and terms.
- Companies cannot require the use of AI in any film production.
WGA’s chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman told NPR: “There’s a bunch of things the companies told us they would never do: minimum staff size is one of them. Preserving the writer’s room: that was a key gain. Residuals in the success of streaming: another thing they said they’d never do. They couldn’t figure out success. They did it here.”
Now that writers are back to work, talk shows like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert” and more will resume immediately. This also means that popular shows like “Stranger Things,” “The White Lotus” and “Abbott Elementary” will resume production.
Gavyn Cundari, a senior digital film major from San Diego, said, “It’s nice that it was resolved in a way that we didn’t see much of a lapse in content except for maybe nightly shows.”
The SAG-AFTRA’s film and television actors have been on strike since mid-July. This is the first time in 63 years that both SAG and WGA have come together to fight for indifferences in the studios.
As the writers’ strike comes to an end, there are performers who are still on strike because of the use of AI in studios.
“In the past year and a half, AI has kind of grown to the forefront of technology,” Cundari said.
Video game actors have voiced that the use of AI is harmful and poses a threat more to their job security than it does to film actors. Many video game actors do voice work that can be manipulated and generated with AI.
Sarah Elmaleh, chair of the interactive negotiating committee, told the LA Times, “AI is being litigated literally and culturally and economically, all in real-time right now.”
Even though writers can go back to work, there are still steps that need to be taken in the film industry. WGA is currently waiting to vote to approve this contract.