Hollywood Writers Fear for Their Jobs as AI Looms: WGA Strike Day 2

Picketing continued on the second day of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in LA. Writers are worried AI will take their jobs.

The second day of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike saw picketing outside major studios in the Los Angeles area. This strike, which is the union’s first in 15 years, has halted hundreds of productions.

The WGA’s West Coast and East Coast branches announced on Monday night that contract talks with the studios had broken down. The union walked off the job when its contract expired at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

Pickets went up on Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday, the strikers had an earlier call time of 9 a.m. They were out in force again on Wednesday morning, picketing at studios including Amazon’s Studio in Culver City, CBS’ Studio City lot, Television City, The Walt Disney Co.’s corporate headquarters in Burbank, the Fox Studio Lot, Netflix’s Hollywood headquarters, Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Sony Studios in Culver City, Universal Studios, and Warner Bros. in Burbank.

The WGA is at an impasse with Hollywood studios over several labor issues, including residuals for streaming content, staffing levels in writing rooms, and the use of artificial intelligence. Writers fear that AI technology will replace human writers and eliminate their jobs.

“This is not what we wanted to do today, but it is where we are,” said writer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, known for her work on shows such as “My Name is Earl” and “New Girl,” outside the Netflix studio. “And together we will stay united and we will win this fight. So let’s fight together.”

The strike will affect hundreds of movies, scripted television series, late-night talk shows, and streaming productions. Late-night talk shows such as “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” and “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will be the most immediately impacted, with shows expected to go dark. NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” also quickly fell victim to the strike, canceling this week’s planned live episode hosted by Pete Davidson.

The strike will have a wide-ranging economic ripple effect on thousands of crew members and behind-the-scenes workers, such as hair-and-makeup artists, transportation employees, and food servers. It will also impact businesses near studios, such as restaurants that typically serve workers who, for the foreseeable future, will not be reporting to work.

Governor Gavin Newsom spoke at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills on Tuesday and said that “every single one of us will be impacted by this (strike), whether directly or indirectly.”

The WGA is pushing for increases in pay and residuals, particularly over streaming content. The guild is specifically calling for higher residual pay for streaming programs that have higher viewership, rather than the existing model that pays a standard rate regardless of a show’s success.

According to the union, its latest contract proposal would net writers roughly $429 million per year, while the studios’ latest offer would equate to about $86 million annually.

Studios have pushed back on some union demands, noting that the entire industry is facing budget constraints and pointing to the thousands of layoffs currently underway at the Walt Disney Co. as a prime example. The studios also say writers’ residuals have increased in recent years, powered largely by amounts earned through “new media.”

Despite the tensions, union members are standing strong, determined to protect their livelihoods and fight for their rights.