Story by Claire Mao
Illustration by Heejoon (Joon) Lee
The Writers Guild of America strike has been dominating the entertainment headlines since summer. Composed of roughly 11,500 writers hailing across the globe, the Writers Guild of America, often abbreviated as WGA, finds itself immersed in the midst of its third-longest strike to date, which commenced on May 2.
The strike stems from a variety of concerns, most prominently sparked by the end of the writer’s contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on May 1. In effect, the broken contract delayed many long-term Hollywood projects, such as the next “Avatar” movies.
The WGA advocates for a multifaceted set of demands due to the need for higher compensation. Additionally, WGA promotes safeguards such as setting a minimum number of writers for each project and establishing parameters for their tenure in order to provide protection from the precarious nature of projects, some of which may never air. The concern of AI technologies replacing writers has also cast uncertainty over striker’s future employment, intensifying their call for protection and job security.
The Writers Guild Strike of 2023, despite its historic magnitude, may be harming workers as opposed to helping them. Progress toward a resolution seems elusive as both AMPTP and WGA remain at a lack of consensus on the terms of their negotiation. Although compromises have been made between WGA and AMPTP, the guild demands to have all the im ir requests agreed upon, not just a few. AMPTP rejected counter-offering for weekly pay towards writers and refused to reward programs that obtain more viewership. There were some counters from AMPTP, such as the employment length, but WGA has also rejected those.
Continuing the WGA strike is pointless. If writers continue, they would have a more deleterious aftermath as opposed to accepting what is already being compromised. While it remains undeniably important for the writers’ demands to be met, the path of the ongoing strike seems counterproductive. Should writers choose to prolong the strike, they risk facing far more detrimental consequences than accepting the already-negotiated compromises. Over time, writers may deplete their financial resources and even forfeit their health insurance coverage, which is provided for workers affiliated with AMPTP.
Truant work from writers will diminish their wages in no time. By October, studios and AMPTP workers predict that writers will deplete all money. Without money, writers will be incapable of paying bills, in addition to paying for daily necessities. Losing finances is critical, but losing health insurance is also detrimental.
Missing work also results in the lack of fringe benefits, such as worker’s health insurance. Those who collaborate with AMPTP are given a vast variety of insurance. These include medical, hospital, dental, prescription, vision, wellness, and life insurance. However, the ongoing strike and lack of work will make health insurance benefits no longer be available to them.
Perhaps a more pragmatic approach could involve accepting some compromises in the short term, while retaining the capacity to press for additional concessions in the long run. An offer AMPTP countered was the use of artificial intelligence; WGA demanded that AI cannot write or rewrite literal material. Although the alliance rejected that particular offer, they countered by having annual meetings about technological developments. WGA can use this as a stepping stone, and in future meetings discussing AI, writers can bring up their current offer that was rejected.
This strategy would not only safeguard immediate financial stability and health insurance but also provide a platform for continued negotiations towards achieving the broader goals of the WGA.
Writer’s concerns for AI come from a necessary place, but it is ultimately unfounded. Concerns for AI are understandable, as they do not want their occupation snatched even though AI is incapable of that. Currently, writers need no cause for alarm. Humans infuse their sentiments and past experiences into their writing, and in contrast, AI retrieves information from the internet, lacking genuine thought or affective perceptions. A robot’s writing will not express itself the same way people formulate themselves.
Writers will have the opportunity to consider accepting compromises in the midst of the ongoing strike. Current AI technologies have not reached a level of advancement that can entirely displace them from their jobs. Acknowledging this, writers can shift their focus towards long-term planning, aiming for better protection and security in their employment. By temporarily yielding to certain demands and engaging in constructive negotiations, writers can not only secure immediate stability but also position themselves to advocate for even more robust safeguards in the future.
The strike must come to an end. More repercussions will arise if the writer’s strikes have no end. Rather than accepting the current compromises, writers will be terminated from their health insurance, which covers many medical fields. As a result, the writers have two paths: one, accept compromises made with AMPTP; this will take some advantages away while still giving both sides what they want. Or two, continue striking and make no covenant, eventually leading to repercussions that will far outweigh the demands they are wrangling for.