Writers Guild strikers pick up political heavyweight backer: President Biden
Striking WGA members now have the backing of President Biden. | Writers Guild of America, East via Twitter

WASHINGTON—The 11,000 members of the Writers Guild of America, forced to strike by the nation’s TV studios, movie moguls, and streaming video manufacturers, picked up a political heavyweight backer: Democratic President Joe Biden.

But maybe nobody should be surprised. Biden publicly supports unions and union workers at every turn and has openly supported workers trying to organize the big Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., and others.

Biden’s endorsement of the script writers’ union and its cause was brief but to the point. “I sincerely hope the writers’ strike in Hollywood gets resolved, and the writers are given a fair deal they deserve as soon as possible,” he declared on May 9.

“Thank you @POTUS. So do we!” the AFL-CIO, which posted his statement, tweeted in reply.

The Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing the studios and the other firms, forced the writers to strike starting at 12:01 am on May Day. Picket lines went up in Hollywood and in front of offices of Netflix and of NBC Universal in New York on the East Coast.

The strike affected the production of live programs, such as late-night TV shows, plus movies and Netflix and other streaming services. After all, you can’t produce such programs without scripts.

Key issues are wages, the bosses’ determination to cut back on workers’ hours by switching production from live writers to artificial intelligence, and the complete collapse of residual income writers receive every time one of their scripts is used in a rerun. WGA says that since the last pact was signed, writers have lost 23% of their wages. They want raises of 6%-5%-5% over three years. AMPTP offered 4%-3%-2%.

In a series of tweets, comprising an entire release, the Writers Guild explained the artificial intelligence threat. Replacing writers with AI is a form of plagiarism, the union says.

“AI can’t be used as source material, to create minimum bargaining agreement (MBA)-covered writing or rewrite MBA-covered work, and AI-generated text cannot be considered in determining writing credits,” Writers Guild of America-West, the sector which covers Hollywood, said in tweets.

“Our proposal is that writers may not be assigned AI-generated material to adapt, nor may AI software generate covered literary material. In the same way that a studio may point to a Wikipedia article, or other research material, and ask the writer to refer to it, they can make the writer aware of AI-generated content.

“But, like all research material, it has no role in Guild-covered work, nor in the chain of title in the intellectual property. It is important to note that AI software does not create anything. It generates a regurgitation of what it’s fed.

“If it’s been fed both copyright-protected and public domain content, it cannot distinguish between the two. Its output is not eligible for copyright protection, nor can an AI software program sign a certificate of authorship.

“To the contrary, plagiarism is a feature of the AI process. #WGAStrong #WGAContract2023 #1u.”

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.