By: Jordan Sarver-Bontrager and Mira Costello
Media Writer, Editor-in-Chief
SAG-AFTRA: Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
WGA: Writers’ Guild of America
AMPTP: Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
IATSE: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
After nearly four months of work stoppage and failed deals, the SAG-AFTRA strike ended on Nov. 9. While you might be excited for your favorite shows and anticipated movies to resume production, it’s important to know how we got here and what the future holds for all the workers involved.
On April 18, WGA members voted near-unanimously to go on strike – stop their screen-writing work – if a satisfactory deal with the AMPTP was not made by May 1. After lengthy negotiations and no agreement, the WGA saw its first unanimous strike vote in 15 years, with writers raising concerns about fair treatment and pay by their employers in the age of television streaming as well as job security in the age of AI.
During the strike, they agreed that writers would not “do any writing, revising, pitching, or discussing future projects with companies that are members of the AMPTP.” WGA members also picketed and marched in front of several major studios, including on the set of Apple TV series “Severance,” where the strikers temporarily halted production of the show.
In July, SAG-AFTRA joined the WGA, marking their first joint strike since 1980. The collaboration of these unions, which together represent over 170,000 workers, was quickly considered the most significant interruption to film and television in the U.S. since Covid-19.
The WGA strike ended on Sept. 27 when the union reached a deal that included regulation of AI usage in studios, flexibility for WGA members and a requirement that studios must notify writers if any materials given to them have been AI generated.
SAG-AFTRA remained on strike for over a month longer until agreeing to AMPTP’s “last, best, and final offer” on Nov. 8, which was a three-year deal increasing job protections and wages.
Writers and actors weren’t the only groups affected by the strike: propmasters, cinematographers, editors, sound engineers, makeup artists, production designers and other workers that make media happen have been out of work for nearly six months.
Devin Huff, a New York prop worker and IATSE member, moved back to his native Mishawaka after being unable to work because of the strike. Although he was not part of the striking unions, Huff – like other entertainment workers not part of WGA or SAG-AFTRA – still found themselves out of work due to the strike, both because production could not continue without the striking workers and because other workers wanted to show solidarity with the strike.
Huff has worked on familiar favorites like Law and Order: SVU, The Blacklist, SEAL Team and more, but had to make ends meet as a desk clerk during months of negotiations.
“I am happy that they came to a conclusion that is somewhat satisfactory for both parties. Being caught in the crossfire, all I could do was bide my time and hope for a quick resolution,” he said.
Despite some calm after the storm as he settles back into his life in New York, Huff said this may not be the end of the story for labor and management in the entertainment industry.
“I’m happy that things are finally getting back to normal, although I do worry about next year when IATSE’s contract is up for renewal,” he said. “I really don’t want to do this all over again, and it would force a lot of really bright-minded and motivated individuals away from an industry that relies on that type of person to succeed.”