The Captain's Log

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The Captain's Log

The Captain's Log

Hollywood SAG-AFTRA strike updates

Will a compromise and deal ever be made?

It has been well over four months since Hollywood labor disputes began, with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), the union representing screenwriters in Hollywood, going on strike on May 2nd and the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) going on strike on July 14th. This is the first time in 63 years that both unions went on strike at the same time and the effects have been felt across Hollywood.


There are a multitude of reasons as to why the unions went on strikes. Concerns over the use of artificial intelligence,the lack of fair residuals for writers with the advent of streaming, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inability for the unions and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to reach new contract agreements. SAG-AFTRA President and actress Fran Drescher told reporters in a speech “What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor, when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run”. Striking members have argued that if CEOs can have exuberant salaries (Disney CEO Bob Iger made $44.9 million last year) and the companies can generate revenue in the billions (Netflix made $32.12 billion last year), than a pay increase for those creating the materials generating said revenue is not unreasonable. 


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 Striking actors and writers haven’t just been picketing but have halted work on productions for numerous shows and films and have halted promoting any upcoming productions on the current release calendar. Though some productions have been able to continue via waivers, such as productions by independent film company A24, who have agreed to SAG-AFTRA terms, and three shows produced by AMC Studios. The cast of the film Oppenheimer walked out of the movie’s London premiere in solidarity with striking workers.


The strike has also been noted for hostility from several of the companies, NBCUniversal was criticized for pruning trees near Universal Studios that actors were using as shade from the California sun and Lionsgate recently suspended a producer on the show BMF for his attempt to intimidate striking writers. The anonymous comments from a studio executive saying that they were willing “allow things to drag on until union members [started] losing their apartments and losing their houses” in order to force the unions to the table was also widely criticized.

After four months, the strike isn’t slowing down. Economic think tank The Milken Institute projected that the strikes would cost the US economy $5 billion, double what was lost during the 2007-2008 WGA strike. California Treasurer Fiona Ma recently sent an open letter to studio executives, chastising their failure to end the strike and asking them to return to the negotiating table as prolonging the strike would cause more damage to the California economy. SAG-AFTRA and the WGA show no signs of backing down and have received an outpouring of support from the general public and other labor unions. SAG-AFTRA will vote soon on whether to strike against the video game industry as well.

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