The AMPTP must put writers and actors over profit

For the first time in Hollywood since 1960, two unions — the Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists — have gone on strike simultaneously. The WGA strike, comprised of 11,500 writers, began on May 2 followed by the SAG-AFTRA strike, comprised of 160,000 actors, on July 14. Both organizations went on strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, a trade association that represents more than 350 American television and film companies — including Disney, Warner Bros. and Hulu — in arrangements with worker unions in the entertainment industry. The demands made by both unions reveal an undeniable truth: writers and actors need to be properly financially compensated for their work and protected from the rising threat of artificial intelligence threatening writers’ positions. This is the only way to ensure healthy working conditions in the entertainment industry going forward.

A major request of the strikers centers around fair wages. Seeking reparations for inflation, the SAG-AFTRA demanded an 11% increase in rate in the first year of a contract, 4% in the second year and 4% in the third. The AMPTP counteroffer on July 12 instead proposed 5% the first year, 4% the second year and 3.5% the third. While the AMPTP defended this downgrade by pointing out how the last time the union got a 5% wage increase was in 1988, just because it breaks the precedent does not mean that it is justifiable. Rent is high — especially in Hollywood — and people need to be able to afford to live where they work. A studio cannot produce films if there are not enough actors in the area to hire in the first place.

Further, as AI continues to improve in various fields of media, it cannot be allowed to substitute for the work of humans. In the initial 2023 contract between the SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, the AMPTP allegedly proposed that studios be allowed to scan the digital likeness of background actors and use AI and Computer Generated Imagery, or CGI, to add them to scenes without consent nor financial compensation, according to the SAG-AFTRA. The WGA’s originally insisted on restricting the use of AI to write or rewrite literary and source material, which was rejected by the AMPTP, according to the WGA. While there is currently sparse objective information available to the public regarding negotiations, due to confidentiality, if what the unions say is to be believed, the AMPTP is attempting to devalue workers to the point of making their jobs obsolete.

While AI can replicate patterns in writing, it is only a crude imitation lacking real passion and intention. Writing and storytelling have been fundamental aspects of human society for thousands of years; we must not give up the integrity of human creation in exchange for profiting off of mediocre amalgamations of other people’s work.

Opponents of the strikes may say that workers’ expectations are “too high” and that they should just take the counter offers given by the AMPTP that offer a solid middle ground on pay, along with considerable improvements to the regulation of AI. However, the strikes’ perseverance are completely justified. According to the WGA’s negotiating committee, the AMPTP has yet to offer protections against the use of writers’ work to train AI to create new content. If the AMPTP was really listening to the WGA, they would know that they are looking for full protection, not just partial. In regards to pay, these studios with net worths in the billions have the funds to sustain significantly increasing pay in the industry, but they do not because it hurts the main objective — profits. They only offered to increase contract pay rate by 5% because they knew that the strike would harm them greatly if it lasted too long.

The livelihoods of writers, actors and other industry professionals, along with the future of Western entertainment hang in the balance as the unions and the AMPTP are at a standstill. If studios cannot properly meet the demands of the very lifeblood of entertainment, then the entire industry will fall.

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