Bob Iger knows how to deal with a strike. As one of his first moves as CEO, he narrowly avoided a hospitality union strike. He eventually struck a deal with the Service Trade Council earlier this year, agreeing to a raise for Cast Members at Disney World. The Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild strikes, however, are a completely different can of worms.
The strikes from the two unions are still ongoing with no sign of ending anytime soon. On Wednesday, August 9, the Writers Guild strike reached its 100th day. They seem determined to make meaningful headway, and studios seem determined to break their will.
The WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are, in part, an attempt to keep AI at bay and prevent free labor via AI usage. Studios have increasingly begun using AI images to avoid paying extras on screen. Writers also fear AI writing programs could be programmed to take their jobs.
On Tuesday, the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America were joined by the American Federation of Labor for a National Day of Solidarity. Picketing happened all over the country, and a large group appeared outside of Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. The event was led by Kerry Washhington, Martin Sheen and Ron Pearlman. The mayor of Burbank, also a SAG-AFTRA member, showed up and gave a speech. You can view it here:
The day of solidarity marked the date that this strike became the longest Union strike in US history (discounting the United Auto Workers 7-year ‘Strike’ that didn’t actually result in work stoppage). Studio executives have hinted, and some have outright said, that their aim is to wait until the Union members lose their homes and ability to buy food before they’ll consider negotiating.
Members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have said the comments suggesting that studios are attempting to “starve out” union members are false. In an unprecedented maneuver, the AMPTP released its latest proposal, which Union leaders rejected. This is highly irregular as, most of the time, negotiations happen behind closed doors.
It is being reported that the offer was released publicly in order to get “rank and file members on board” and circumvent the negotiation process. At Tuesday’s picketing in front of Walt Disney Studios, many carried signs calling out the latest offer, stating that it wasn’t enough. Issues like residual payments, secure employment for writers, and the use of Artificial Intelligence remain points of contention between union members and studios like Disney, Universal, and Warner Brothers.