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The forces I describe in The Nine continue to collide. Get used to it.
Aug | 14 | 2023


Image credit: DreamStudio/StabilityAI

Would you mentor your replacement? Maybe, but I suspect that many folks would go all Brett Farve and flat out refuse.

Now, ask yourself that same question about AI.

Hmm, probably not.

And that is one of the core issues behind the decision of the Writers Guild of America to strike. It turns out that, much like weavers, creative types don’t want to train machines to quickly replace them. (Cue Nietzsche quote.) Facing an existential crisis, the WGA is willing to die on this hill—and I would do the same thing.

Advantage: Employees

Under different circumstances, the writers might have to grin and bear it. Wisely, they are not. Generative AI is no joke, but there’s another force at play here from The Nine. The Great Resignation may have waned, but we are still living in an era of employee empowerment. Consider the following two stats:

  • The US June unemployment rate remained minuscule at 3.6 percent.
  • Approval of labor unions in the US has reached its highest point since 1965.

Against this backdrop, one would expect to see other high-profile labor disputes.

And that’s exactly what’s happening—and not just in the US.

Actors are standing with their WGA colleagues in a strike of their own. (Some even walked out of the Oppenheimer premiere in London.) It turns out that, like college athletes, thespians understandably don’t want movie and TV studios freely serving up their names, images, and likenesses à la the prescient Black Mirror episode “Joan Is Awful.” Again, I stand with SAG-AFTRA and Fran Drescher.

Image credit: Annie Murphy and Salma Hayek in “Joan Is Awful”, Netflix

And the Hits Keep on Comin’

Labor unrest may do more than deprive millions of Disney+ and Netflix subscribers of fresh content and fuel TikTok’s insane growth. Hundreds of thousands of well-compensated UPS workers may walk off their jobs at the end of the month.

Unprecedented? Nope. This last happened more than a quarter-century ago during the nascent days of e-commerce, and the results weren’t pretty. As Steven Greenhouse of the New York Times wrote at the time, the UPS strike “created myriad inconveniences, large and small, for companies and consumers across the nation.”

Powerful forces are colliding in unexpected ways.

In an era of Amazon Prime and instant gratification, expect vocal, irritated cusotmers and much worse shipping delays if the Teamsters and UPS can’t find common ground. Much, much worse. (I can just see the memes on Threads.) I wouldn’t be surprised if the Biden administration attempts to broker a last-minute deal before things break bad, especially now that inflation is dropping from its highs. (Side note: The sides appear to be closing in on a deal.)

Simon Says: Forces are colliding. Put your seatbelt on.

Quiet quitting and refusing to return to the office represent a few annoying and inconvenient forms of employees flexing their muscles, but labor stoppages are an entirely different breed of cat. They may soon affect what we watch and when our online orders arrive.

Brass tacks: Employee empowerment, generative AI, and other powerful forces are transforming the workplace. Expect them to collide quickly and in unexpected, disruptive ways. Strikes represent a few consequences of these forces colliding. Make my words, though: They sure won’t be the last.

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