Hollywood actors and writers unite in historic strike, calling for fair pay and AI limitations
Hollywood actors, alongside film and television writers, made history by joining picket lines after 63 years. On Friday, they rallied outside major studios, calling for fairer pay in the streaming era and limitations on the use of artificial intelligence. These dual strikes will compound the economic impact of the ongoing writers' walkout, placing additional pressure on the multibillion-dollar media industry as it grapples with significant transformations.
In both New York City and Los Angeles, actors marched outside the offices of companies like Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Paramount Global (PARA.O), demanding better compensation for working-class actors and other improvements.
At Warner Bros Discovery (WBD.O) offices in New York, actor Susan Sarandon expressed her dissatisfaction, stating, "We're using an outdated contract for a new type of business, and it's simply not benefiting most people. The studios' corporate greed has made it extremely challenging for individuals to lead fulfilling lives."
Despite the presence of well-known and wealthy Hollywood stars in the SAG-AFTRA ranks, the picket lines primarily comprised lesser-known members, who constitute the majority of the union's 160,000-strong membership. Actor Caitlyn Knisely, outside the palm tree-lined Paramount Pictures lot in Los Angeles, emphasized the desire for an improved quality of life: "Most of us are middle-class actors and writers. We simply want to enjoy the same things as everyone else—own homes, start families, and cover our expenses."
Meanwhile, picketers outside Netflix headquarters chanted, "Netflix pay up!"
Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA and former star of "The Nanny" TV show, addressed the gathering and connected the actors' struggle to a broader surge in labor activity across the United States. Unions nationwide, including those representing workers at Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and Starbucks (SBUX.O), have taken a firmer stance during negotiations.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which negotiates on behalf of studios like Netflix and Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), claimed to have offered substantial compensation increases to SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) members.
Sources close to the studios also argue that the companies are facing significant challenges. Many streaming services have yet to generate profits after investing billions of dollars in programming to attract customers. Disney, Comcast Corp's (CMCSA.O) NBCUniversal, and Paramount collectively incurred hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from streaming in the recent quarter. Simultaneously, the rise of online video has eroded television ad revenue as traditional TV audiences dwindle, and movie ticket sales remain below pre-pandemic levels.
The unions are seeking assurances that their jobs will not be replaced by generative artificial intelligence. SAG-AFTRA leaders claim that studios have proposed paying actors for a single day's work while utilizing their digital images indefinitely.
The AMPTP refuted this characterization, stating that studios had offered "groundbreaking" safeguards concerning AI usage.
The WGA's work stoppage has had far-reaching effects in California and beyond, impacting caterers, prop suppliers, and others reliant on Hollywood productions. With actors now joining the picket lines, the economic consequences are expected to widen.
The writers' strike has resulted in endless reruns of late-night television talk shows, disrupted production for the upcoming autumn TV season, and halted work on big-budget movies.
The actors' walkout will shut down remaining U.S.-based film and scripted television productions for the studios, as well as hinder many overseas shoots.
At the Sony and Amazon studio lots near Los Angeles, picketers expressed hope that the concurrent strikes by actors and writers would expedite a resolution.
Actor Jason Fielders, from "L.A.'s Finest," summed up the sentiment, stating, "Everyone wants to work. I don't want to be out here on the picket lines, sweating and not getting paid."