There is no question that technology changes how people do their jobs. Sometimes the change is for the better, but not always. When technological changes negatively impact the workplace, labor unions are even more crucial to ensuring that workers’ voices are heard. Under the National Labor Relations Act, American workers have the right to come together in support of one another, unionize, and to demand to bargain over better job conditions and protections. That includes the right to strike.
Right now, we are witnessing that right in action with the Writer’s Guild of America West striking over the technological advancements in how television is shared and content created.
Why are they striking?
According to reports, the writers are striking to secure their jobs and ensure fairness in pay. Streaming services and the changing nature of television shows are at the root of their challenges.
Historically, TV writers could count on full-time or nearly full-time work for a show and receiving residuals every time their shows reran. These systems gave writers more stability for longer periods of time.
Today, writers typically work on a show for less time because there are fewer episodes per season. And rather than collect residuals for years as a show continues to be rerun multiple times, companies like Netflix pay writers a one-time payment when they pick up an old show. Coupled with advancements in artificial intelligence, this strike is about job security as well.
The union is attempting to negotiate better terms and protections for writers. Among their demands are:
- Minimum terms of employment (at least 10 consecutive weeks)
- Increase in staffing minimums from six writers to 12 per show
- Improved residual payments
- Bans on the use of artificial intelligence for scriptwriting
The strike could last for months given how far apart the two sides are. Strikes can be especially hard on workers who depend on their income to provide for their families. Yet, without federal laws protecting the right to strike, these writers would have largely been left to the whims of their employers and potentially replaced by a computer program.
We may not be in Hollywood, but Michigan workers can experience some of the same challenges as the writers in Los Angeles.
As technology continues to transform the workplace, unions continue to serve the essential role of protecting workers from their employers’ abuses. In dealing with the latest technical innovations, union help to preserve job security, increase compensation, and improve working conditions.