Walking the Picket Line: The Writers Guild of America is on Strike

A WGA member holds a sign that reflects the frustration felt by many of the picketers.
Photo by Lynn SHER

By Lynn SHER

On May 1 the Writers Guild of America (WGA) officially went on strike both in New York City and Los Angeles. The WGA Negotiating Committee unanimously rejected the final offer of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) before the midnight deadline. WGA members were told by the Negotiating Committee, “Though your strike vote gave us the leverage to make some gains – the studios’ responses to our proposals have been wholly insufficient.”

Apparently the AMPTP refused some key components in the negotiations. They reportedly refused to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television and to create a “day rate” in the comedy-variety genre. A deal breaker for the negotiators from WGA included requests that would protect writers from potentially being replaced with artificial intelligence – AI.

Writers are afraid that producers will want to use AI to jumpstart scripts, in which case they would be left out of the creative process, instead being used as a sort of script doctor to edit and finesse the AI’s creation. This is a worse case scenario, but also palpable – one that dances on the lines of plagiarism.

According to PCGuide.com, “ChatGPT [an artificial intelligence chatbot] is not plagiarism insofar as it is not copying the work of someone else outright. However, it is somewhat questionable from an … integrity standpoint in the sense that … you have not created the work yourself.”

A WGA member who’s requested he remain anonymous said, “We’re dealing with the replacement of labor on a widespread scale by AI and the writers’ strike is the frontline of that fight for humanity.”

Popular shows like “Stranger Things” and “Yellowjackets” have gone on hiatus because of the strike and picket lines have shut down location shoots in NY and LA, late night talk shows have gone dark and the MTV Movie & TV Awards’ live show was canceled. Members of AMPTP have remained relatively quiet though a four-page letter was released (letter is below).

Photo by Rachelle MILLER

WGA West members are encouraged to protest at designated areas for four hours a day, every day of the workweek. Picket lines are currently marching at all of the major studios in Los Angeles.