During the live-streamed interview with Ira Glass on LinkedIn, Obama opened with prepared remarks on his support for the Writers Guild of America (WGA), whose members have been on strike for the past four weeks.
“I know there are many studios and streamers who feel a little bit embattled and there’s been a little bit too much of a glut of product and they’re looking at their bottom line and their experiencing shareholder pressure,” said Obama, “but the fact is, is that they wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for writers creating the stories that matter. My hope is that as somebody who’s really supportive of the Writers Guild and as someone who just believes in storytelling and the craft of it, I’m hoping that they will be compensated and the importance of what they do will be reflected in whatever settlement’s arrived at.”
He continued, “I’m very supportive of the writers and the strike and I’m hopeful that they get a fair share of the fruits of their labor.”
The former president also touched on technology’s impact on the workforce: “My hope would be that in a time of big technological change, where you’ve got big mega corporations that are doing really well, that they keep in mind the creative people who are actually making the product that consumers appreciate and that gets exported all around the world.”
WGA members went on strike May 2 after failing to negotiate a deal with Hollywood studios — the first time since 2007, before streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max existed. Two major points of contention have led to an impasse between the two parties: Residual payments and the use of artificial intelligence. The latter has garnered considerable media attention as the WGA wants to regulate the use of AI, fearing AI could create screenplay drafts with studios hiring writers at day rates to punch up those scripts.
Obama made his first statement on May 16 about the writers strike in an Instagram post promoting the launch of Working, in the lengthy caption, he wrote: “This series is also about making sure we respect everyone’s line of work — because we all deserve to be valued and treated with respect. That includes the friends I made in this series and everyone else who is fighting for fair compensation and new protections that reflect changing workplaces — including the members of the WGA who are on strike right now.”
President Joe Biden also stood in solidarity with WGA writers during a screening of the Disney+ series American Born Chinese at the White House earlier this month. “I sincerely hope the writers strike in Hollywood gets resolved, and the writers are given a fair deal that they deserve as soon as possible,” said Biden.
He added, “This is an iconic, meaningful American industry, and we need the writers and all the workers and everyone involved to tell the stories of our nation, the stories of all of us.”