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The Truckee Times

Big News, Small Town

The Truckee Times

The Student News Site of Truckee High School

The Truckee Times


Big News, Small Town

WGA Strike Affects Us All

How history repeats itself and the Writer’s Guild of America stands for class struggle everywhere
WGA writers opened their computers and got back to work on Oct. 9 after a 146 day strike.
Ayla Bair
WGA writers opened their computers and got back to work on Oct. 9 after a 146 day strike.

Before we can dive into why exactly the strike affects us, we must first understand what the strike even was, and why it was. The WGA strike officially went into effect on May 1, 2023, but had been alluded to since as early in the year as February. The writers were concerned about not only AI taking over their jobs, but also their pay, and how new outlets are presenting their works. The tension between writers and, specifically, streaming services as well studios in general, has been mounting for decades due to inequalities in pay, crediting, and treatment, and it has culminated with this strike. There have been previous strikes, like the one in 2007, but this one in particular is especially significant. It tackles new, imminent problems that are the concerns of more than just the writers. The strike lasted 146 days and ended with the signing of a three-year contract on October 9th. It is also important to note that the WGA voted before authorizing the strike, and 97.78 percent of the members voted to strike.  


So why does this matter? The reason this strike is important is because it not only affects everyday consumers, whose favorite shows and movies were put on hold due to the lack of writers, but it also affects the working class in general. Anyone who works a job understands the anxiety of being replaced, and now with the development of AI the threat is even more immediate. This was one of the main issues the writer’s guild aimed to find a workable solution to during their strike. The SGA or Screen Actors Guild, also went on strike alongside the WGA for some of the same reasons. They were both concerned about pay, and job security with the development of new technologies. It is important that we realize that it isn’t just the writers who will be and are being affected by these problems, but everybody in the working class. We all face the threat of AI taking over aspects of our lives and automating the world, though some may be more concerned than others. Students are beginning to use AI to generate essays and assignments, everyday office workers use AI for training, organizing, and general tasks, and HR companies are using AI to generate content. AI is no longer a thing of the future, it is a thing of the present.

Anyone who works a job understands the anxiety of being replaced, and now with the development of AI the threat is even more immediate.

This is the age of the rise of artificial intelligence, and as with many other things, we are the guinea pigs. Researchers don’t know what AI is really capable of, they don’t know how much of our lives it could end up being involved with. I am by no means implying that AI will gain sentience and take over the world, but that we as humans are already so dependent on the technology we currently possess, so it is reasonable to assume that we will become dependent on these new technologies that AI is providing and will continue to provide and develop. Who can really say when AI will reach the point where it can realistically replace humans in certain professions, what matters is that we take precautions now to ensure that if it does come to that, we are secure and provided for. This is precisely what the WGA is so concerned about, not just about the writers of today, but the writers of the future. Shows generated by machines won’t possess that originality, that spark of humanity that they do now, but they will be content generators, appealing to the largest audience possible to generate capital for large corporations. These corporations don’t care about the everyday person, the stranger walking down the street, they care about the money, what they can gain from employing machines over humans. Machines that won’t complain or strike, machines that don’t need a living wage. 


So having addressed the issue of AI, what about the writers’ pay, and their complaints about streaming services? How much writers are paid should matter to us too. It again ties back to the issue of the greater whole, if writers can be paid less, why not cashiers, office workers, consultants? If corporations can get away with paying writers their Minimum Basic Agreement, (the minimum wage that the WGA and corporations agreed on) then others might very well follow suit and model their own policies and payroll after this example. According to Jason P. Frank, “It points to an increase in writers working for the Minimum Basic Agreement across the board in roles ranging from staff writers (98 percent of whom now work for the MBA minimum — up 12 percent from the 2013–14 season) to showrunners (49 percent are at the minimum — up 16 percent). In overall terms, the percentage of TV writers working for the MBA minimum increased from a third in 2013–14 to nearly half of all writers in 2021–22.” The decline in pay for writers is also due to movies and TV shows now being largely viewed on streaming platforms. When shows and movies were aired on cable, or purchased as DVDs, the writers would receive a residual income, meaning that they would still be paid for their work when people bought the DVDs or watched reruns of the shows on cable. However, with streaming, the platforms are keeping their content to themselves, not allowing it to be shown elsewhere and therefore eliminating residual pay for writers. According to Brian Welk, “Many writers rely on residuals from their work being re-aired or distributed as a long-term source of income, but these are also evaporating. The dominance of streaming means fewer TV episodes available; for programming like reality shows or variety, late night, and talk shows produced for streaming, the residuals range from inconsistent to nonexistent. In film, residuals have all but disappeared as streamers hold on to their content; there’s no afterlife in syndication, cable, or DVDs.”


I previously mentioned that there was a WGA strike before, in 2007, where the writer’s actually fought for similar arguments as they did this past summer. That is, streaming, or as they classified it, “new media”. The writers wanted to take the initiative and set down rules before things got out of hand. They organized a 100-day work stoppage which was estimated to cost the industry $2.1 billion dollars. The strike ended with streamers being obligated to hire WGA writers and increase the gross receipts that writers received. I bring this strike to the platform to discuss because as the famous saying goes, “history repeats itself”. There is a reason that the writers have gone on strike before, and a reason as to why they went on strike this time around. If we don’t find a solution for this problem, there will be more and more strikes, costing more and more money, and affecting a wider range of people each time. This time the strike cost $5 billion dollars, more than twice the cost of the strike in 2007, what about the next time? How soon will the next time be? Because if we continue down the path we are taking, not only will the writers strike, but other workers will too, and each time it will get more expensive, more impactful, and more difficult to navigate. History will continue to repeat until we find a compromise.

History will continue to repeat until we find a compromise.

There is a documentary called “Tales of the Script” that better details the struggles of writers in the industry and the mistreatment they face in Hollywood. It was made in 2009, which says a lot about the progress that has been made. If they were making documentaries about the injustices of the industry then and are still striking about those same injustices and even some new ones, now, then we are stuck in a loop. The documentary highlighted how hard it is to break into the industry and how little writers are respected, paid, and considered in decisions concerning their works. That is even more so the case now, when writers are not being paid enough to support themselves in an inflated economy and are being forced to go on strikes because studios won’t accept their conditions. I want to clarify, that I’m not blaming this all on the corporations, the writers are in a way also at fault. Even us, the consumers, have in some way contributed to these growing issues. As a race, human beings struggle to compromise, which is a great shame as it is an essential skill that we should all learn how to master and wield. If the writers could learn to compromise and if the studios could learn to listen and compromise as well, and if the consumers could learn to understand the struggles of both sides and support the best outcome, then we wouldn’t have these problems. But as I said, history repeats itself, and as we have seen this before, we will most likely see it again. 


The outcome of the strike was that on September 24, 2023 the WGA and the AMPTP came to a tentative agreement. The union members voted on whether or not to ratify the contract from October 2-9 and 99% voted to ratify the agreement. This marked the official end of the strike and writers are now back to work but with new terms. These new terms include that studios cannot use AI to write scripts and or to edit scripts that have already been written by a writer, treat AI generated content as source material, or force writers to use AI tools – though they can if both sides agree upon it. The contract also detailed a raise in pay for writers and a minimum requirement for staffing. Collectively, everyone seems to agree that this contract is a great benefit to writers and sets a bar for future negotiations concerning AI and wages in the labor industry. It is my hope that this will be the first of many compromises as we continue to develop and grow as a society, introducing new and innovative technologies and systems into our everyday lives and industries. We may not be able to stop history from repeating itself, but we can change the events that make up the cycle. If we can continue to compromise and work together to face these issues, then history repeating itself can be a positive thing rather than a vicious cycle of disagreement and striking. 

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    Jim BrowningApr 8, 2024 at 7:59 pm

    Awesome article Ayla, excellent commentary!