In recent weeks, Los Angeles has become the epicenter of a national strike wave as workers from a range of industries voice their concerns over worker pay and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). The convergence of these walkouts has led to increased coordination among unions and has attracted workers who have never before participated in organized labor.
Hollywood, in particular, has been heavily impacted by the strikes. Actors and writers are on strike simultaneously for the first time since 1960, effectively paralyzing the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, cleaners, cooks, UPS drivers, and port workers have also taken to the streets, disrupting various sectors of the local economy.
Notably, Los Angeles Unified School District teachers went on strike earlier this year and secured a 30% pay increase. In May, performers at a North Hollywood bar formed the first strippers’ union in the US in nearly three decades.
Artificial intelligence plays a significant role in workers’ concerns. There are fears that production companies could use AI to create computer-generated versions of actors, replacing human performers. The technology already exists, as seen with the use of AI to generate the voice of actor James Earl Jones as Darth Vader in a Disney series. AI programs can also create serviceable scripts, affecting the job security of writers.
Negotiations between unions and film studios broke down when they could not agree on AI policies. SAG-AFTRA, led by actor Fran Drescher, wants actors to have the power to grant permission and receive compensation each time their digital replicas are used. The studios’ counterproposal has been criticized for its lack of protection and rights for actors.
The rise of AI threatens not only performers but also workers like Amazon drivers. They fear that AI could eventually lead to their jobs being automated and eliminated.
Overall, these strikes have the potential to reshape the power dynamics between workers and corporations. The widespread support and coordination among different unions indicate a shift in energy and cooperation within organized labor. However, the ultimate impact of these strikes is yet to be seen.