WGAE Petition Demands Employers Establish AI Protections For Journalists

The Writers Guild of America East is petitioning employers to ensure that protections are in place for journalists as AI technology develops.

The petition, signed by more than 1,000 members, calls for “immediate, good faith negotiations on AI,” including outside of scheduled contract bargaining, as well as “a guarantee that AI protections will be on the table in future bargaining.”

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The petition also calls on employers to “publicly commit to never replacing a human worker with an AI tool,” something that has been a big concern among journalists, as well as film and TV writers in their recent strike.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order to try to establish protections for safety and security around AI, as well as an effort to mitigate its displacement of workers. But the labor provisions are limited to creating a set of best practices and principles, as further steps to preserve jobs likely would take congressional action.

The writers who signed the petition include members at CBS News, Cooked Media, Frontline, The Intercept, Hearst, HuffPost, iHeartMedia Podcasts, MSNBC, Slate and Vox Media. A number of film and TV writers also signed, including Robert Carlock, Patricia Cornwell, Tom Fontana, Mary Harron, Soo Hugh, Natasha Lyonne, Julie Martin, Adam McKay, Stephen O’Donnell, Michael Rauch, Diana Son, Jim Taylor, and WGAE President Lisa Takeuchi Cullen.

Read the petition.

“We recognize there are ways AI can support our work — but we also know that this technology can introduce factual errors, perpetuate racist biases, compromise data privacy, and diminish our readers’ trust,” the petition reads. “We’ve already seen publications make embarrassing fumbles by rushing out AI-generated content, resulting in widespread reputational harm and reader mistrust.”

The petition also calls on employers to work with journalists before implementing AI tools in workplaces, including to ensure “they’re applied in ethical and equitable ways.”

Sara David, WGAE’s vice president of online media, said in a statement, “The implementation of generative AI in journalism is a direct threat to the jobs of hard-working writers. Along with serious concerns of AI replacing union workers, its track record of producing biased and discriminatory content is further reason for careful and collaborative regulations. We cannot allow artificial intelligence to cannibalize the hard work of our journalists.”

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