New York fund calls for swift end to Hollywood strike in letter to CEOs

New York State Comptroller writes to entertainment giants, including Apple, Disney and Paramount, urging fair and quick resolution to industrial action.

The New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, has written to eight entertainment companies, including Apple, Amazon and Disney, urging them to work quickly and fairly to settle the ongoing Hollywood strike.  

Citing financial risks posed to the companies by the industrial action, he called on the CEOs “to work diligently towards an expeditious settlement of this labour dispute on terms that are fair to both labour and management and will allow the company to move forward in a productive relationship with its employees, its communities, and its customers”.

DiNapoli is sole trustee of New York State’s $233 billion pension fund.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike last month following a breakdown in negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the body representing the studio bosses, over a new agreement on pay.  

One of the reported sticking points is around so-called residuals, payments received for repeat showings of films or television programmes. Another is around the use of AI to generate a performer’s likeness.  

DiNapoli expressed concern that the strike could result in delayed or cancelled productions, which would potentially carry a financial cost to companies. The comptroller cited estimates that a similar action in 1980 cost the industry $40 million per week.  

Reputational risks were also raised, especially in light of accusations from unions that the AMPTP had failed to engage meaningfully with the artists’ concerns. 

“Based upon the fund’s experience as a long-term investor, we believe that the ability to establish and maintain constructive relationships with workers is a hallmark of a company with a sound, sustainable and profitable long-term strategy,” DiNapoli wrote. “Conversely, labour disputes can pose financial, legal, and reputational risks for companies.”   

The letters, dated 28 July, were sent to the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Paramount, Comcast, Sony, Warner Brothers and Disney.  

Worker rights have been a focus for New York State this year. The fund has co-filed several shareholder proposals on freedom of association and collective bargaining, including at Walmart and Netflix.  

Most of those resolutions were filed alongside the Office of the New York City Comptroller, which also filed one on the issue at Starbucks, attracting 52 percent support – an especially significant tally given the falling support for ESG proposals this proxy season and sharp drop in the number of majority-supported ones.