At the beginning of May, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted to strike against major Hollywood studios, citing poor working conditions and declining pay as the primary causes of the work stoppage. Although the union does not appear to be any closer to signing a new deal than they were months ago, members of the WGA have recently seen their picket lines become stocked with new faces, some of which are quite famous. That’s because last week the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union also voted to go on strike, marking the first time in 60 years that both professional writers and actors have joined together in a labor action against film and television producers.
For weeks it seemed like SAG-AFTRA would avoid the fate of the WGA and agree to a last-minute deal, but the process broke down after weeks of negotiations where both parties refused to budge on key issues. Much like their colleagues in writers’ rooms, actors working in Hollywood say that they have seen their paychecks steadily decrease in the streaming era. “Shorter season orders and longer hiatuses between seasons makes it increasingly difficult for our members to achieve and maintain a middle class lifestyle working as a performer,” said SAG-AFTRA in a statement.
Actors are also united with writers in their condemnation of artificial intelligence (AI), which they fear will be used by studios to further disenfranchise performers. “[Producers] propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay and their company should own that scan, their image, their likeness, and to be able to use it for the rest of eternity in any project they want with no consent and no compensation,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief negotiator for SAG-AFTRA. While no one is certain what the result of these strikes will be, experts are sure about one thing: with no writers or actors currently working in Hollywood, film and television production has effectively ground to a halt. Only time will tell which parties will prevail in these high-stakes and high-profile strikes.
- Why are members of SAG-AFTRA striking against movie and television studios?
- Do you think Hollywood producers should agree to the demands made by the writers’ and actors’ unions? Why or why not?
Sources: Avi Selk, Samantha Chery and Niha Masih, “SAG-AFTRA is on Strike. What to Know About the Impact on Hollywood,” The Washington Post, July 13, 2023; Chris Isidore, “AI is a Concern for Writers. But Actors Could Have Even More to Fear,” CNN, July 18, 2023. Photo by Jaguirre2192.