ActivismFilm / TV

Hollywood’s Summer ‘23 Is For Workers Rights

July 24, 2023

For the past few weeks we have been inundated with marketing and press for the Barbie and Oppenheimer film releases. However the participation of actors in this marketing and press abruptly halted when the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced their strike. For the first time in 40 years, writers and actors in Hollywood have suspended work and taken up placards in protest.

It is important to remember that while actors and writers entertain us, they are still workers. Much like workers in any industry, there are only a select few who earn seven figures and upwards; while the supermajority seek a wage they can live on. Corporate executives would have the public believe that the demands requested are unsustainable. For example, Disney CEO, Bob Iger suggested that protesters were being unrealistic while on a retreat with fellow executive millionaires and billionaires.

The purpose of protest action is change

Two of the most universal issues in the strike pertain to a person’s likeness and what their time/work is worth. Studios suggested extras be paid for one day of work, but their image would be scanned and owned by the studio in perpetuity. For writers, studios suggested that writing rooms be turned into more of a gig economy wherein someone could be booked for a day to “tweak” an AI generated script. These suggestions come at a time where streaming has interrupted an actor or writer being able to earn residuals for their work in a way that was commonplace before we began watching television and film online.

As the strike carries, focus on the crux of the matter – earning a livable wage. The WGA and SAG-AFTRA are negotiating basic minimums for the people whom they represent. Capitalism suggests that the economy should be free of intervention and allowed to correct itself. Yet we know that corporations will choose their profits at the expense of their employees if they are allowed to. As such, this is a workers rights issue, not merely an entertainment issue.

Respecting the picket line during a strike

Studios are going to be looking for alternate ways to promote their films and TV series. As a general public, we can practice solidarity with the writers and actors by engaging our favourite films and series offline instead of creating content promoting them. While this may be extreme, it isn’t a far reach to understand that even though it is the actors and writers protesting this summer, it could very well be your industry protesting in the approaching winter.

In close, while our favourite shows and movies hang in the balance of the strike so do the lives of thousands of workers in the film and TV industry. Wealthy executives and studios may try to change the narrative to make themselves look benevolent, but remember that they are resistant to people being able to earn a living wage in the face of global economic uncertainty and a cost of living crisis.