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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Actors Join the Hollywood Writers Strike

Members of SAG-AFTRA protest to update their rights and earn higher wages. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), has joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on strike, as of July 14, 2023. 

SAG-AFTRA, a group of over 160,000 actors, singers, dancers and other media professionals with the mission to preserve their rights in the entertainment industry, began negotiating with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on June 7, 2023. These negotiations centered on increasing workers’ wages and protecting them from the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) replacing jobs in the film industry. After initial requests for negotiation proved ineffective, the SAG-AFTRA National Board unanimously voted to strike. 

“This is what you get when you get studios not respecting actors and writers,” SAG-AFTRA member Nikhil Pai stated in an interview with _____. Expecting the opportunity to make a deal with large companies like Disney, Netflix and Warner Bros., guild members were shocked when they were called “uncivilized” for taking a stand. 

President of SAG-AFTRA Fran Drescher emphasized the concern of AI in an interview: “If [we] don’t stand tall right now, [we] are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.” Furthermore, in the same interview, she vocalized the lack of empathy she felt from AMPTP. “Big business cares more about Wall Street than you and your family.” 

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) began their strike on May 2, 2023. Similar to SAG-AFTRA, WGA’s mission is to protect the rights of writers and assist in negotiations with producers. Recently, the Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser released a video titled “Writing is Our Home” to provide updates as the strike gains momentum. In it, he stated that in the past 12 weeks that writers have been on strike, AMPTP has tried negotiating with many organizations and guilds but specifically avoided dealing with the WGA. 

Keyser claims AMPTP had a strategy in which they would make a deal with specific guilds and enforce those guidelines among all other guilds, regardless of whether it addressed their concerns. This strategy has particularly affected the WGA as wages for writers in Hollywood are unsurvivable, with most people unable to afford healthcare. “[E]ven success is not enough to keep going,” Keyser said.

 In the video, Keyser also explains how the strike has gained increased leverage with the addition of SAG-AFTRA. When WGA went on strike in May, most productions for extensive streaming services were delayed. Now, with the joint power of SAG-AFTRA, the few remaining productions have also shut down. “[O]ur bargaining agenda may not be identical, but our cause is the same,” Keyser added. By joining forces, SAG-AFTRA and WGA have significantly increased their chances of having negotiations that achieve their goals. 

Thousands of workers — including janitors, drivers, and surrounding businesses — lost their jobs due to the WGA strike. Keyser highlighted that if AMPTP had not avoided negotiating for so long, the loss of jobs could have been easily avoided. 

If [we] don’t stand tall right now, [we] are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.

— Fran Drescher

Sophomore Hedy Hao agreed with Keyser, claiming that “companies have enough to spare,” citing the 150 billion dollars of profit made by film corporations since 2017, the last time AMPTP negotiated with WGA. Hao highlighted the necessity of compensating the employees who work for these corporations, as the television shows and movies they make billions of dollars off of every year could not exist without them. 

On the WGA website, an announcement titled “Negotiations Update” informs people about the negotiations with AMPTP president Carol Lombardini on August 4, 2023. According to the WGA Negotiations Committee, AMPTP stressed a media blackout during most of their negotiations. AMPTP rejected their request to preserve the writers’ room and success-based residuals, essentially rejecting writers’ protection from the threat of AI. The WGA website includes a list of proposals WGA made to AMPTP and the offers AMPTP made in response. AMPTP rejected nine WGA proposals, seven of which AMPTP refused to counteroffer.

Despite these setbacks, the strike in Hollywood continues with goals to improve working conditions and achieve fair compensation for the work writers in the entertainment industry. Support for SAG-AFTRA and the strike is overwhelming as thousands of people band together and form picket lines outside film studios in Hollywood.

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