Josh Gondelman on the writers' strike
"Their position is the writers are being 'unreasonable,' and we’ll wait until they’re homeless. Who’s the unreasonable one there?"
Also in this edition from Aaron:
— DeSantis flops on CNN
— One notable moment from Trump’s Hannity town hall
— McCarthy’s shamelessness
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By Thor Benson
The Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) recently joined the WGA writers’ union in striking until they get a better contract from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The writers have been striking for two and a half months, and it’s unclear how long it will go on, but it’s brought Hollywood to a standstill.
Recently, an anonymous studio executive told Deadline they’ll continue stalling these negotiations until writers lose their homes and are desperate to take a deal. Disney CEO Bob Iger has called the writers “unreasonable.”
The writers have been asking for better pay for their work and have made multiple other requests that unions commonly make when they’re renegotiating a contract, but one aspect of this negotiation is relatively new. The writers want a guarantee that they won’t be replaced by artificial intelligence programs or have AI heavily utilized in the writing process.
I decided I’d talk to one of the writers who’s striking about what they’re fighting for, what they fear about AI, and more. I spoke with Josh Gondelman, an Emmy Award-winning writer, comedian, and actor.
“I see this strike as intertwined with the labor movement writ large,” Gondelman told me. “I think AI is a big issue. It’s really close to the way other jobs are being automated and people are being squeezed out and forced to take less money than they’re worth. It’s cruel the way this is happening across different industries.”
A transcript of my conversation with Gondelman, lightly edited for clarity and length, follows.
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How do you feel about the comments we’ve been seeing from studio executives in the news? There was an anonymous one about how they’re going to hold out until writers are losing their homes another one about the writers being “unreasonable.”
I don’t think there’s any real reason to take those anonymous sources at face value. They’re clearly trying to scare us into settling for less than we deserve. The AMPTP said, “That’s not what we actually believe,” but someone speaking on your behalf seems to want people to think that’s what you believe.
They seem pretty comfortable being monsters. Like you said, their position is the writers are being “unreasonable,” and we’ll wait until they’re homeless. Who’s the unreasonable one there? The argument is we’re going to make you sweat this out until you have to live on the street. It’s pretty clear who is demanding too much from the other side.
That kind of stuff does have to be bad for morale. I’m sure people don’t like hearing it.
Everyone is very conscious of the strain a work stoppage causes for writers and other people who work in the industry, so I don’t want to take that lightly, but every single person that I talked to was like, “Oh, they’re just saying it. They’re coming right out and saying this isn’t about fairness. This isn’t about what’s sustainable for the industry.” This is them saying, “We want to hurt you, and we want everything. The whole pie is ours. We would rather inflict human misery on you than give up low single digit percentage points of our enormous corporate profits.”
I think the resounding response on social media and behind the scenes is a real testament to both the strength and solidarity of the writers’ guild and the absolute biffing it that AMPTP has done in terms of public relations. They really thought going to the press and saying they want the writers to be homeless and that they’re not going to negotiate in good faith made them look good and cool and powerful and not weak and desperate and cruel.
How far away from a deal do you think you are?
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