Organized labor proved to be one of the big winners this year, as seen in how the strikes conducted by actors and writers in Hollywood caused studio executives to rethink contracts, and how the United Auto Workers (UAW) struck new deals with the three biggest players in the American automotive sector.
118 Days Leading to Change
The 2023 Hollywood writers’ strike was one of the longest organized labor activities in history, lasting 118 days or nearly four months. At the time the strikes began in July, many writers’ contracts across the industry had expired and were due for renewal. But the mere renewal of their contracts was not what writers fought for.
The advent of generative artificial intelligence (AI) was something that many writers sought protection against, given how several platforms used screenplays available online to train their AI, essentially stealing copyrighted material from different authors. Writers also sought a pay scale appropriate to the increasing cost of living, as well as residuals for materials that have made the shift from cable to streaming platforms like Netflix.
Actors also had their day in the sun when the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) led by Fran Drescher secured a contract worth more than $ billion on top of above-pattern increases to the minimum wage paid to minor actors in professional productions. At the same time, informed consent regarding the use of AI- or digitally-generated likenesses of certain actors, along with fair compensation to the actual person or the estate thereof were also secured by the SAG.
Shock and Awe
In mid-September, the three biggest carmakers in the US – Ford Motor, General Motors, and Chrysler’s parent firm Stellantis – were stunned when workers simultaneously went on strike. This was the result of a massive majority vote on the part of UAW members to call out the Big Three about current labor practices and worker compensation.
As a result of this mass action, Ford officials were pressed to make the union a real offer which was eventually accepted. Stellantis followed suit and, while it took some time, General Motors eventually came around. Other players like Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota eventually followed suit by giving pay raises to those working at their US facilities.