Hickenlooper joins SAG rally for entertainment workers in Denver, urges fair AI use
Colorado is home to about 600 SAG-AFTRA members
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper addresses a crowd of union workers supporting the SAG-AFTRA strike at a rally Aug. 25, 2023, in Denver. Members from various unions representing workers in Colorado came to show solidarity during the strike. (Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline)
U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper joined entertainment workers on the picket lines Friday as the Colorado chapter of the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists held a solidarity rally in Denver amid the continued national strike.
Hollywood productions have ground to a halt this summer after SAG-AFTRA joined the Writers Guild of America in a dual strike, the first since 1960. Both unions were unable to agree to new contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association that represents studios and production companies.
Actors and writers are seeking higher wages, regulations on the use of artificial intelligence in TV and film and a restructuring of the residuals system, through which long-term actors and writers receive long-term payments for the repeated use of their work through streaming services and television reruns. They say the need for such changes has been exacerbated by the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
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Colorado is home to about 600 SAG-AFTRA members who work in smaller film and theater markets. Colorado Local President Sonny G. said he’s proud to have seen his Colorado members show up to represent the smaller markets throughout the strike.
Hickenlooper, who had a few cameos in films his cousin directed, is a member of the union himself. In the Senate, Hickenlooper said feels he’s able to dive deeper into a smaller number of issues than he was able to as a governor or mayor, and he has prioritized the accelerating technology landscape and the future of artificial intelligence.
“What you do and how you do and and what you are is a fundamental part of our community and who we are,” Hickenlooper said. “I think as technology pushes boundaries, we need to be pushing for protections against the abusive forms of artificial intelligence.”
Nancy Flanagan, who represents Colorado on SAG-AFTRA’s national board, said the demands union workers are asking for would cost producers and streamers less than 1% of their worth.
“What do you imagine Disney’s response would be if any one of us used an image of the famous mouse without paying them for it?” Flanagan said. “And yet, the producers propose that it’s okay to scan an actor — a human being — and use their image anyway they please, forever, with no additional consent, or compensation for that use forever.”
Sheila Ivy Traister has been a member and leader of the SAG-AFTRA Colorado Local chapter since before the two legacy organizations merged in 2012.
Traister said when most people think about the entertainment industry, they think about the celebrities, who she said represents only the top 2% of their workforce. She said 86% of the union’s 160,000 members don’t qualify for health insurance in a given year.
“We need the population to understand that we are workers with employers, and what you see as the finished product is slick and wonderful, it moves you,” Traister said. “Where would we be if it all went away? Where would you be if it all went away? Who’s going to tell your stories? We want to continue to lift up humanity with dignity.”
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