Hello to you, the person whose entire life revolves around waiting for the next season of their favourite show! Don’t worry! We’re not shaming you. We’re all in the same boat, after all! We’re all waiting for the next season of Stranger Things (even if the kids will be forty by then), the next season of the beloved Abbott Elementary, the next season of our favourite white-haired problematic family’s show, House of the Dragon, and so many more. But, unfortunately, we might have to wait a lot longer than we usually do because the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA have something to say.
We all love streaming services. We get to watch our favourite shows whenever we want, we always have options, and it’s even cheaper than cable (kinda), right? Wrong! Not all of us love streaming services, and to be more specific, screenwriters and actors are not big fans, and for a good reason. Streaming services, while providing a ton of content for viewers and subsequently more jobs for writer and actors, needs to pay more, and everyone has had enough!
As of 1 May 2023, all writers under the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have gone on strike, and as of 13 July 2023, all performers under the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) have joined them. Why? They need a better deal. What does that mean for you, dear viewer? No more TV shows, movies, games, documentaries or anything in between. What can we do about it? We can support them, but the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) can do much more!
Who is WGA and SAG-AFTRA?
In a world that runs on capitalism, labour needs protection. After a lot of thinking, the world came to the conclusion that the only way we can protect ourselves from being exploited by capitalism and the people with money is if we stand together. As a result, unions were formed. Every group of labourers who work the same job gathered together and created a union whose job is to negotiate better work enrolments and better pay for everyone. This is what the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA are.
The Writers Guild of America was established in 1954. It is a labour union representing all writers of scripted media in America. That includes television writers, movie writers, game writers, animation writers, news programme writers, and documentary writers. Members of the Writers Guild of America work under the labour rules set by the WGA to ensure the members’ fair pay and a decent work environment.
The Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG–AFTRA) is a labour union that is a merger of two organisations. SAG was established in 1933, AFTRA was established in 1936, and in 2012, both merged into the largest federation of unions in the United States. The SAG–AFTRA works exactly like the WGA, ensuring fair pay and good working conditions for actors in America.
Why Are the WGA and SAG-AFTRA on Strike?
Because they want better pay (duh!), but in all seriousness, let’s get into more details. Before you decide your stance on this situation, you should understand what is happening and why.
Every three years, the WGA and SAG-AFTRA negotiate with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to renew the contracts between them. These contracts pave the way to all the labour rights the members of both unions will be entitled to in the next three years.
The WGA’s contract with the AMPTP was to end on 1 May, and negotiations for a new contract started at the end of March. This time, the Writers Guild of America was going on strong with many demands that mostly concerned streaming services and their horrible pay and non-existent residual system for writers.
In the old contracts, writers were entitled to residuals on shows/movies they had worked on as long as they were being shown on television networks. Streaming services were too small back then to be included in such a demand. However, nowadays, streaming services are the backbone of the industry, and most work comes from them. So, they need to pay!
On 27 April, the Writers Guild of America announced that after two weeks of negotiations with companies such as Netflix, Disney, Amazon, Apple, Warner Bros, Sony, and Paramount, they had not reached a fair deal and, therefore, were going on strike.
For more than three months now, all members of the WGA have been on strike, and on 13 July, they were joined by their brothers and sisters of the SAG-AFTRA. The SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations with the AMPTP have also reached a screeching halt over almost the same reasons as the WGA: fair pay for actors, residuals, and regulations over everyone’s favourite technology right now, AI.
How Does the Strike Affect the Industry?
This is not the first time any of these unions have gone on strike. However, it is only the second time in history that they have done so simultaneously. With both writers and actors on strike, we can only imagine the havoc that will cost Hollywood.
As a start, all scripted TV shows, movies, and programmes that were currently in production, whether being written or being shot, have come to a halt. We might not feel the consequences of this stop right this second because there is plenty of content that is ready to be released. However, in a couple of months, when the studios have run out of content, us and them will begin to feel the consequences of the strike.
The first kind of media that got hit by the strike was Late-night TV shows and daily programmes such as SNL. With writers no longer working, these shows came to a sudden stop and will remain inactive until the WGA gets a fair deal. Unscripted shows such as reality TV and programmes like American Idol or The Voice might be fine (but let’s be serious, is this the kind of content we want all the time?).
Usually, work never stops. From the moment a TV show season ends, the writers are working on the next. It is the same for movies and all other media content. Even if the strike ends today, the couple of months of strikes that already happen will have an effect on the industry. But in all seriousness, we do not see the strike ending any time soon, thanks to the big studios’ inability to act.
What Can We Do to Help Out?
Good question! Showing support online can go a long way. Right now, studios are wholly dependent on fans to market their content because the strike does not only mean actors can’t act, but they can’t work in any capacity, including promotion (Exhibit A: The cast of Oppenheimer walking out of their premier when the SAG-AFTRA strike started).
Showing support and solidarity with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA demands shows studios that the problem is big enough for their undivided attention. Maybe also refrain from sharing AI-generated videos of actors on the internet as regulating the use of AI and actors’ likeness is part of the demands of SAG that still need to be met.
Recently, SAG-AFTRA has asked fans to refrain from cosplaying characters from TV shows and movies that belong to the studios they are striking against. Such a move, if met with approval from fans, will have a great effect on studios’ marketing, especially with the yearly SDCC.
Another impactful thing you can do —if you can— is donate to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA. Under strike rules, writers and actors cannot take any work right now. That means they’re not being paid. Many of them live paycheck to paycheck (part of the problem), so not working will affect their livelihoods. Donating to the WGA and SAG can help them continue to strike to call for better future pay and fix this endless circle.
Labour Unions are created for the good of everyone who works in said industry. Maybe A-list actors and big showrunners are paid millions for their work and are not affected by the low pay the unions are fighting against. But, their taking part in and supporting strikes allows for their not-so-big colleagues to have a chance at actually making a living wage out of the jobs they love so much.
The strike has just started, and we are still determining how far it will go and what are its long-lasting effects. But one thing we know for sure is that everyone deserves to be compensated fairly for their work and should have a say on how or if their bodies, voices, and likeness are used in media. So, even though we will miss our favourite shows greatly, we wholeheartedly stand with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, and we hope they reach a fair deal for everyone involved.
Frequently Asked Questions
We hope you understand what is happening with the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strike a little better now. However, we still want to share with you some of the most burning questions people have on the internet in case you are asking them as well.
What is happening with the writers’ strike?
We would like to think we answered this question, but we will summarise. All writers under the Writers Guild of America are currently on strike, meaning they cannot pitch, negotiate contracts or work with producers on writing scripts. The strike started on 1 May and will continue until a fair deal is reached between the WGA and the AMPTP.
Why are actors striking?
This question usually comes from people thinking all actors are rich, which is far from the truth. SAG is striking to ensure profit is divided equally between the studios and the working actors. A-listers might be being paid millions of US dollars, but most actors barely make a living wage under the current circumstances.
How can we support WGA and SAG strikes?
You can do many things to support the strikes, including talking about it online and offline. You can also join a picket fence and show your support in person. The most effective thing you can do is donate to the WGA and SAG to financially support the striking members until the strikes are over.
When will the strike end?
There is no specific end date for the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strike. The strike will end when both unions reach a fair deal with the studios under the AMPTP that ensures better pay for their members and regulations over AI, among other demands.
Does the actors’ strike affect Broadway?
Stage actors are not part of SAG-AFTRA. Therefore, the current actors’ strike does not apply to them, nor will it affect any Broadway or Off-Broadway production. So far, even the demands that have to do residuals and AI integration don’t apply to stage productions.
Will The View be affected by the actors’ strike?
According to a statement by Whoppie Goldberg, The View will not be affected by the actors’ strike as it operates under a different kind of contract than the one actor and writer sign. However, any talk shows that interview actors cannot pursue that as long as the strike is active.
Will the actors’ strike affect Soap Operas?
No, Soap Operas, just like The View, operated under a different kind of contract than the one that abides actors under SAG-AFTRA. The Network Television Code that Soap Opera abides by is still active and is not under strike orders. In simple terms, your favourite Soap Opera will continue as usual.
Will the SAG strike affect commercials?
No, it will not. Commercials are covered under a different contract than the one that is currently expired between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP. Commercial contracts are still active, and actors can pursue them freely under the strike.
Will the DGA strike?
The Directors’ Guild Association will not be striking as they have reached a deal with the AMPTP. However, many members of the DGA have expressed disappointment over the deal the DGA management has struck with the AMPTP and have expressed their support for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.