Dual Strike Action Amplifies Hollywood Disruption as Unions Demand AI Assurance and Pay Increases

Hollywood Actors Join Writers on Strike for First Time in 63 Years

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hollywood actors and film and television writers united in a dual strike on Friday, marking the first time in 63 years that both groups have taken to the picket lines. The strikers are demanding higher pay for the streaming era and limitations on the use of artificial intelligence (AI). This simultaneous strike action will further disrupt the already struggling multibillion-dollar media industry, which is grappling with major transformations in its business model.

In cities like New York City and Los Angeles, actors rallied outside major studios, including Netflix Inc and Paramount Global, to voice their demands for increased compensation and benefits for working-class actors. Susan Sarandon, a prominent actor, expressed her dissatisfaction with the current contract, stating, “We’re in an old contract for a new type of business and it’s just not working for most people.” Sarandon also criticized the studios for their corporate greed, which she believes is making it difficult for individuals to live fulfilling lives.

While famous Hollywood stars are members of the SAG-AFTRA union, the majority of the members are lesser-known actors who make up the middle class. These actors, like Caitlyn Knisely, participate in the strike because they seek the same financial security and opportunities as others. Chants of “Netflix pay up!” reverberated outside the Netflix headquarters, emphasizing the actors’ determination.

The SAG-AFTRA President, Fran Drescher, former star of “The Nanny” TV show, joined the picketers and connected the actors’ fight to the wider surge in labor activity in the United States. Drescher warned that if they don’t take control of the situation, they risk losing their livelihoods to the greed of the studios.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates on behalf of major studios such as Netflix and Walt Disney Co, claimed to have offered significant increases in compensation to both SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America (WGA). Studios argue that they are also facing challenges, with many streaming services yet to turn a profit due to their heavy investment in programming. Disney, Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal, and Paramount have all reported significant losses in the recent quarter.

The unions are demanding assurances that the use of generative AI will not replace their jobs. The studios have proposed using actors’ digital images indefinitely after just one day of work, which the unions find unacceptable. The AMPTP, however, argues that this characterization is false and asserts that they have offered “groundbreaking” protections regarding the use of AI.

The Writers Guild of America’s strike has already had a significant impact on California and beyond, affecting caterers, prop suppliers, and others who depend on Hollywood productions. The economic repercussions are expected to worsen with the actors now joining the picket lines. The writers’ strike has resulted in the repetition of late-night television talk shows, disrupted autumn TV season productions, and halted work on big-budget movies.

As the actors’ strike unfolds, the remaining U.S.-based film and scripted television productions will be shut down, and numerous overseas shoots will be affected. Actors like Jason Fielders, who participated in the picket lines, expressed their hopes that the simultaneous strikes by actors and writers will lead to a swift resolution. He, like many others, simply wants to continue working and earning a livelihood.

By Dawn Chmielewski, Danielle Broadway Rollor Ross, and Omar Younis in Los Angeles
Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in London and Jonathan Allen in New York
Edited by Lisa Richwine

Source: Thomson Reuters