By Ava Lee-Green

Saturday Night Live, Stranger Things, and The Last of Us are just a few of the productions suspended due to the ongoing strikes in Hollywood. And while the stars of those shows have the resources to wait out the strikes, most people on screen and behind the scenes do not have that luxury.

The Strikes

At the moment, two major strikes are happening in the entertainment industry. The first consists of Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) members and began on May 2, 2023. This means that all scripted TV and film productions have been suspended since the strike began.

The WGA represents over 11,000 screenwriters, and those members voted to initiate the strike due to ongoing disputes with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents many of the large film studios. One of the main issues that led to this strike is that an agreement was made to establish a minimum wage for screenwriters. However, this new standard only applied to those writing for broadcast television and not writers for streaming platforms. This caused a lot of tension because it meant that screenwriters for streaming shows were being paid significantly less than their peers in broadcast TV. Many were also concerned about the introduction of artificial intelligence into the industry, as there is the possibility that people could lose their screenwriting jobs to AI. 

Photo by Eden, Janine and Jim from New York City - SAG-AFTRA Picket I

A few months later, on July 14, 2023, the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA, also went on strike after failing to come to an agreement with the AMPTP about increasing wages and job security. Since the 14th, all members of SAG-AFTRA, including actors, journalists, and talk show hosts, have not been able to work. In fact, per the strike’s rule against doing press junkets and film premieres, the cast of Oppenheimer actually left the film’s London premiere just as the walkout was announced. 

Despite the past few months of negotiations and picketing in front of studios and offices, both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA still have yet to reach a deal with AMPTP that betters their work environments.

Implications and the Future 

Although wealthy celebrities can put their jobs on hold until agreements are made and the strikes end, most people in the entertainment industry are losing a lot by not being able to work.

For example, a SAG-AFTRA member’s healthcare coverage by the union is dependent on their employment in productions. As none of the members can work, there is serious concern that thousands of SAG-AFTRA members’ health insurance will be in jeopardy if the strikes continue. 

These strikes highlight the significant inequality within the workplace in both Hollywood and other industries. It shouldn’t take thousands of people feeling as though they have to strike for them to get their basic needs met by their employers. 

These strikes have gained a lot of support both by fellow actors and screenwriters, as well as by the general public. But, it is unclear how long it will take for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA to come to agreements with the AMPTP. And while, yes, it is frustrating that your favorite movie or TV show is postponed, or even canceled due to these strikes, it is important to understand that these union members are fighting for better wages and working environments, which takes precedence.

Header photo credit: Photo credit: Thomas Wolf via Wikipedia

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