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After SAG-AFTRA Deal, Hollywood Reflects on Lessons Learned from Extended Labor Strife

After a record-breaking six-month work stoppage, the resolution of the SAG-AFTRA strike in Hollywood prompts deep reflection on the challenges faced by actors and writers, issues of over-production, and the impact of generative artificial intelligence.

Following the resolution of the lengthy work stoppage between SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and major employers in Hollywood, the industry now faces a period of reflection on the lessons learned during the more than six-month labor dispute.

The strike, marked by picket lines and disruptions, has revealed deeper issues in the entertainment economy, including challenges faced by actors and writers, over-production concerns, and the impact of generative artificial intelligence technologies on creatives.

As the sector prepares to resume production, there is a call for a reevaluation of the Hollywood labor contract negotiating process and a focus on the upcoming negotiations with IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).

Strikes exposed the difficulties faced by actors and writers in Hollywood, highlighting instances of being underpaid, evaded, or cheated during various levels of work. Issues such as shorter episode orders, fewer seasons per series, and income disparities contributed to the hurdles for working professionals in the industry.

The return to work will happen in a more restrained content spending environment, with numerous projects greenlighted before the strike already being canceled by streaming platforms and other outlets. The industry faces ongoing challenges in managing the aftermath of the strike, with further project cancellations expected.

It sparked discussions about the legal, moral, and ethical implications of generative artificial intelligence technologies. The terms negotiated by SAG-AFTRA on AI will likely serve as a reference point for ongoing litigation and policy discussions surrounding AI's impact on employment in copyright-based industries.

The extended strikes have prompted calls for a comprehensive review and redesign of the Hollywood labor contract negotiation process. Concerns include the timing of negotiations, the calculation of economic terms, and the need for a more collaborative approach to prevent future lengthy shutdowns.

Attention now turns to IATSE, whose master contract covering crew, tech, and artisan workers is set to expire on July 31. The lessons learned from the recent labor strife, along with the new contract precedents, emphasize the need for a proactive approach to avoid a repeat of the disruptions witnessed this year.

The aftermath of the SAG-AFTRA strike prompts a period of introspection and a push for reform in Hollywood's labor practices. As the industry grapples with ongoing challenges and prepares for future negotiations, there is a collective effort to build a more resilient and collaborative framework that addresses the evolving dynamics of content production and technology's impact on the entertainment workforce.