WGA Negotiating Committee Member David Simon On Urgency To Tackle AI Now & Fight To Keep Term Employment

David Simon, an outspoken WGAE member for 28 years and member of the guild’s 2023 negotiating committee, was among the more than 200 writers and supporters who picketed the NBCUniversal upfront presentation at Radio City Hall Monday on Day 14 of the WGA strike.

The Wire creator told Deadline that disagreement between writers and studios is sharpest on two issues: whether writing will be gig work or term employment in the future; and “the use, or misuse, of AI.”

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According to Simon, before the strike, AMPTP, the trade organization representing film and TV studios and film and television producers, made no secret of their goal to downgrade writers’ job status.

“Their lead negotiator actually said to our negotiator, ‘You’re lucky you have term employment at all,’” Simon said. “That statement was made, and I think that gave away the store: They’re trying to make television and film writing a gig economy in full, and they’re trying to get rid of term employment, which is the backbone of how the majority of our members need to earn their living.”

On the second issue, using artificial intelligence programs to churn out ideas and even scripts, Simon said, “We’re at the threshold of a new frontier in terms of technology. There are things that AI can do and there are things it clearly can’t do. And as writers we need to delineate what is right — what is true and viable writing and what is not, and what is an affront to writing. And that moment is now.”

Simon added that the fight over AI reminded him of the advent of streaming technology, which Netflix began using in the same year, 2007, that the last writers strike began.

“Streaming raised its head, and the idea of residuals being tied in any way to shows that were not being broadcast over channels,” Simon said. “And the producers at the time said to us, ‘This is so new. We don’t know where the money is in here, or if there is any money. … We’ll talk about this in the next contract.’ That’s literally what they said.”

Simon, never the one to mince words, then added, “And that was bullsh*t. So we had the strike and we ended up getting our foot in the door. I would suggest to you, the moment with AI is the same way. We either deal with AI right now or in three years.”

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