The WGA May Not be Alone on the Picket Lines: SAG-AFTRA Threatens to Strike

With the rise of streaming platforms for television and film, the state of the entertainment space is constantly changing. The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), which represents 11,500 screenwriters, released a report on March 14th titled, “Writers Are Not Keeping Up.” This report included data showing how the writers’ pay has decreased 23% (adjusted for inflation). Their pay isn’t the only thing that’s decreasing, though. Streaming services have an average of 8-12 episodes per season, resulting in shorter employment periods for screenwriters. According to the WGA report, “the new ‘typical’ employment for lower- and mid-level writers on a streaming series is 20-24 weeks, or only 14 weeks if the room is convened without a series order.” This is a drastic difference when looking at the employment periods during the cable era, where screenwriters used to work 40-60 weeks on a network show. With lower pay and shorter work periods, the writers officially went on strike May 2 with the intention of the offer of new contract guidelines including higher compensation for all writers, better residuals, mandatory staffing requirements, and protection against the rise of Artificial Intelligence.

Amid the strike of the labor union, many shows have put a pause on production until further notice, including ABC’s highest-rated comedy Abbott Elementary, Netflix’s Cobra Kai, Apple TV’s Severance, the final season of Stranger Things, SNL, and more.

As the WGA strike continues into its sixth week, another union might be joining them. Streaming services and inflation is also actively affecting actors, resulting in the Screen Actors Guild threatening to strike. The union, which represents approximately 160,000 performers, released a letter signed by more than 300 members stating they are prepared to strike if the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) doesn’t meet their demands of a new contract by June 30th. Their non-negotiable requirements include an increase of the minimum pay, new media residuals, regulation of self-taped auditions, and protection against Artificial Intelligence.

Regarding their minimum pay, the letter states, “With inflation and continued growth in streaming, we need a seismic realignment of our minimum pay and new media residuals, our exclusivity carve outs, and other terms.” They go on to discuss how the casting process needs to be restored by regulating the use of self-taped auditions as this greatly affects working class actors. In regard to Artificial Intelligence, they state they are not willing to compromise in “anticipation that more will be coming in three years,” and the negotiation needs to “protect[s] not just our likenesses, but make[s] sure we are well compensated when any of our work is used to train AI.” The actors finish the letter by stating, “We want you to know that we would rather go on strike than compromise on these fundamental points, and we believe that, if we settle for a less than transformative deal, the future of our union and our craft will be undermined, and SAG-AFTRA will enter the next negotiation with drastically reduced leverage.”

The letter was signed by multiple A-list Hollywood actors, including Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Quinta Brunson, Ben Stiller, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Rami Malek, Neil Patrick Harris, Kevin Bacon, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to name a few.

If the actors join the writers on the picket lines, Hollywood will shut down.

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