Media unions to Schumer: Make sure AI benefits workers
Joe Schleuss, president of the News Guild.

WASHINGTON —Four media unions—The News Guild, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, and both Writers Guilds, East and West—urged Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to ensure any artificial intelligence (AI) legislation lawmakers will pass will benefit, not harm, workers.

The April 4 letter to Schumer, who hosted a series of forums on AI for lawmakers and staffers last year, came as Congress starts to wrestle with AI’s impact on the workplace. It also follows a ground-breaking agreement between the AFL-CIO and Microsoft where the AI giant would convene joint labor-management teams to train unionists in the benefits of AI in making work easier while avoiding the threat that it would cost jobs.

Those Microsoft-trained unionists would then “train the trainers” among their colleagues. Microsoft also signed a written, enforceable company neutrality agreement covering union organizing drives at it and its subsidiaries.

Last year, the major networks, streaming video firms, studios, and TV producers wanted to exploit AI to take away writers’ and performers’ jobs. It led both Writers Guilds and SAG-AFTRA into long strikes. They won agreements to limit such exploitation and to pay workers for each use of their images, and words. voices and likenesses, not just for the one-day or one-time filming or scriptwriting. And AI is a major issue in just-opened bargaining talks involving the Theatrical and Stage Employees.

“AI will never be a total replacement for the work of reporters, investigators, editors, podcasters, on-air anchors or film and television writers,” the letter to Schumer says. “But Congress must take urgent action to ensure any Artificial Intelligence legislation protects creative professionals and journalists.”

The union presidents, led by News Guild President Jon Schleuss, stressed that “human ingenuity and creativity [is] essential to a free press, the media and entertainment industry, and our members’ livelihoods. AI has the potential to greatly undermine the media industry and our democracy if companies refuse to put workers at the forefront of implementation.”

AI already has undermined workers at the Gannett newspaper chain and G/O Media, the letter says. SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guilds “won critical protections in their collective bargaining agreement, but their work continues to be used by AI developers without their consent.”

And workers for the far-right-wing publishers of the Guild-represented Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, whose bosses forced them out on strike almost 18 months ago, also were AI substitution victims.

The letter to Schumer urges him to ensure any AI legislation follows the standards the Writers Guilds won in their struggle with the studios and more: Writing into labor law the right to collectively bargain over AI in the workplace, “ensuring AI does not replace journalists and creative professionals or replicate” their work “without consent or fair compensation,” protect workers’ copyrights to their work, ban bosses’ use of AI to spy on workers and their products and “protecting the professional voice, likeness, and performance and written talent” of the workers.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.