Solidarity with WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikers

Text in image: Writers Guild on strike / SAG-AFTRA on strike!

OPSEU/SEFPO stands in solidarity with the 11,500 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) who have been on strike since May 2, 2023, and 160,000 Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) members who are hitting the picket lines today, July 14.

“The combination of actors and writers on strike at the same time is a powerful challenge from industry workers to the studios who make billions in profit from their labour,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. “By striking, they’re building the power of workers to win the reasonable demands they’ve put forth in bargaining, and our union fully supports their job action.”

Entertainment industry writers and actors are fighting back against the most comprehensive assault on compensation and working conditions that they’ve seen in a generation.

Despite their billions in profits every year, entertainment companies have taken advantage of the transition to streaming services to undercompensate both writers and actors. Here are just a few of the issues that they are dealing with:

  • Much lower residual payments: Residual payments, which are paid to writers and actors whenever their work is rebroadcast or re-released to other markets, are much lower for streaming productions than they have been for television shows or films.
  • Lower wages: High inflation is undercutting pay rates for actors. Median writer-producer pay has also dropped 23% over the last decade, adjusting for inflation. Half of WGA writers are working at minimum scale pay rates. Companies are increasingly refusing to pay overscale premiums that recognize writers’ years of experience.
  • Shorter contracts: Companies are offering much shorter contracts to writers for TV and episodic series, and not covering the full season that the production is running.
  • Demands for free work: Screenwriters in the theatrical market are only guaranteed employment for a single draft, but are asked for endless free rewrites. They often have part of their fee for delivery withheld pending requests for unpaid revisions.
  • Replacing actors with artificial intelligence (AI) likenesses: According to SAG-AFTRA, the industry proposed in bargaining that background performers should only get paid for one day of work, have their likeness scanned by AI technology, and that their image be used forever after, with no consent or further compensation.

The WGA strike has already impacted thousands of Canadian workers in the film and entertainment industry. The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) supports the WGA and does not allow their writers to accept any struck work under the WGA jurisdiction.

OPSEU/SEFPO supports the demands of entertainment industry writers and actors to a fair share of compensation for the work that they produce, protection from AI exploitation, and better contract provisions and working conditions.

Sources/Further reading:

WGA Contract Bulletin: Writers are not keeping up
WGA Contract Bulletin: The state of the industry
WGA Member Voices: Why we strike
CNN Live Updates: Actors are going on strike after contract talks collapse