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The Hollywood Strikes Showed A New Class Consciousness Is Growing

As 2023 draws to a close, one of the biggest stories of the year was the “hot labor summer” and the overall rise of labor activity. The most significant of these strikes was the UAW strike, which began in mid-September and lasted until mid-October. The Hollywood strikes of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) probably generated fewer high-profile headlines. But they deserve some special attention for a few reasons. The strikes ground a highly lucrative industry to a halt, and they cost California and other production-heavy states at least $6 billion in lost wages and business impacts.

ChatGPT Still Needs Humans

The media frenzy surrounding ChatGPT and other large, language model, artificial intelligence systems spans a range of themes, from the prosaic – large language models could replace conventional web search – to the concerning – AI will eliminate many jobs – and the overwrought – AI poses an extinction-level threat to humanity. All of these themes have a common denominator:  large language models herald artificial intelligence that will supersede humanity. But large language models, for all their complexity, are actually really dumb. And despite the name “artificial intelligence,” they’re completely dependent on human knowledge and labor.

Sweat And Solidarity On The Picket Line

A day on the picket line begins with considering the heat. It’s August. I live in the Valley. Even in the best of times, even in a merely “normal hot” summer and not a “climate change is breaking daily temperature records across the globe” summer, it would be quite hot, and spending hours outside in direct sunlight during the middle of the day would be the kind of thing I would work hard to avoid. But because there is a strike going on and I need to picket, staying home is not an option. And so I consider the heat and how best to protect myself. The Writers Guild is on strike and has been for months.

Workers Shut Down Hollywood

Hollywood is shut down now that workers organized with the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which include actors, singers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, stunt performers and voiceover artists hit the picket lines on strike for the first time in 43 years on July 14. This strike is occurring simultaneously with the Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) strike of 11,500 entertainment writers, who have ceased labor since May 2. This is the first time the two unions have struck simultaneously since 1960.

WGA Strikers, Students Tell Warner CEO: ‘Pay Your Writers’

Writers Guild-East (WGAE) strikers and their supporters from Boston-area unions, recently organized Boston University graduate and residence-life workers, and graduates in red caps and gowns — more than 1,000 people — converged on BU’s commencement May 21. The target of their anger: the union-busting commencement speaker, David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery. The protesters checked in at the university’s Playwrights’ Theater, which workers there had turned into strike solidarity headquarters for the day. The theater is home of the Graduate Playwriting Program at BU. The demonstrators all signed up there to get picket signs and be assigned to gate picket duty.

The WGA Strike Is More Than An Issue Of Pay

When Caroline Renard moved to Los Angeles 10 years ago, she had zero connections to Hollywood. But she was determined all the same to break into the industry and did all sorts of side gigs — from working at Veggie Grill to driving for DoorDash and Lyft to babysitting — all to pay the bills while she worked on her craft. And that hard work eventually paid off. She moved up from production assistant on set to an executive assistant at Disney before becoming a writer’s and showrunner’s assistant until she became a staff writer on a show. But throughout that decade breaking into Hollywood, she oftentimes noticed she was one of the few or only Black women in the room.

Hollywood Writers Strike To Save The Industry From Corporate Destruction

Hollywood writers represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, and the Writers Guild of America, West, are on strike for the first time since 2007-08. As Alex Press writes in Jacobin, “The WGA (West and East) called the strike just before midnight on May 1, with its leadership unanimously voting for a work stoppage after six weeks of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over a new three-year contract that covers some 11,500 film and television writers. Announcing its decision, the union said that the bargaining table responses of the AMPTP, which consists of Amazon, Apple, Discovery-Warner, Disney, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount, and Sony, had ‘been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.'”

Over 11,000 TV And Film Writers Go On Strike

At midnight on Tuesday, May 2, over 11,000 writers organized with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike for the first time in 15 years. This strike has the potential to be incredibly disruptive to the entire entertainment industry, effectively grinding much of TV and film production to a halt. The key issues of this strike surround pay — specifically attached to the growth of streaming content — and concerns over how the bosses of the entertainment industry may use AI to “automate” parts or all of the writing process.  This strike dawns at a key moment for both the entertainment industry and the labor movement as a whole.

Writers Guild Of America Calls Strike, Effective Tuesday, May 2

Los Angeles – Following the unanimous recommendation of the WGA Negotiating Committee, the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Council of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), acting upon the authority granted to them by their memberships, have voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 AM, Tuesday, May 2. The decision was made following six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The WGA Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, but the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.
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