Last year’s winter of discontent became a summer of strikes, and that looks likely to continue as workers everywhere are facing plummeting living standards. As bosses seek to undermine hard won conditions in order to maintain profitability more and more workers are being pulled into industrial conflict. The mainstream media always present strikes in a way which suggests that they are against the public interest. But the public tend to take a different view. A case in point is the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strike.
A recent poll on the strike, which began on July 13th, shows that the strikers continue to amass support, with one in four US citizens supporting the strikers and three fifths aware of the issues they are facing.
The strike was prompted by major studios attempting to push for heavier usage of AI and capturing digital likeness (essentially a virtual clone of an actor) that would be owned by the studio in perpetuity. Studios would essentially be removing the need for background performers who currently sell their likeness for a one-time payment.
The current strike adds to the action of the WGA (Writers Guild of America), who hit the picket lines on 2nd May this year, when negotiations broke down between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Production (AMPTP), the banner under which a majority of studios negotiate.
Unfortunately the strike does not have total support from all its members. Individuals such as Stephen Amell (CW’s Arrow, TMNT: Out of Shadows, Code 8) has publicly denounced the strike with the actor stating at a convention, “I do not support striking, I think it is a reductive negotiating tactic”.
Amell, who has a small following from his time as DC’s Green Arrow, is no stranger to controversy, though he has been seen on the picket line following his comments, and has issued a statement on Instagram with what he has called clarification of his early words. It is obviously not a good career move to alienate yourself from your fellow performers, even if your employers like it.
Also criticising the strike is FOX news host Greg Gutfield, whose recent comments on holocaust survivors have faced a strong public response, and who has made several passing remarks on his programme mocking those on strike – “I feel bad for them, but they also had plenty of warning”.
These voices do not seem to represent a large majority, as SAG-AFTA, as of April 2022, has over 170,000 registered members.
SAG-AFTRA suggested they may even be seeking to spread the strike into the gaming industry with their latest tweet:
For those who might think Hollywood is a place full of overpaid, pampered superstars, the fact is that many of those who do essential work to make those superstars look good live a hand to mouth existence. Background actors are currently paid between $179 – 226 per gig.
The strikes have halted production on some big names in TV including Stranger Things, Succession, Hacks, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Last Of Us. There might well be even more repeats than usual this year.