Hollywood Actors Union Orders Strike and Blasts Studios: ‘You People Are Crazy’

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing Hollywood actors, said Thursday afternoon its national board voted unanimously to order a strike after contract talks with studios and streamers broke down. Picketing was set to begin within hours.

The announcement came during a news conference streamed live from Los Angeles on YouTube, after the union’s national board decided to begin the work stoppage because the two sides could not agree on residuals when streaming platforms re-play TV shows and movies, or new rules to protect against artificial intelligence using an actor’s likeness and replacing their work.

“I cannot believe it, quite frankly, how far apart we are on so many things, how they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right, when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher as her voice cracked and she tried to control her anger.

“We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity,” Drescher added as she blasted the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios and streamers.

Drescher, who rose to national fame on The Nanny, added: “We’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?”

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She said streaming completely changed the industry and many actors are struggling financially. Also, since the pandemic began, actors are expected to audition remotely, using their own recording equipment, backdrops, and lights, thus incurring the financial burden of seeking work.

“What is happening right now with this business model that was foisted upon us? What are we doing moving around furniture on the Titanic? It’s crazy. So the jig is up AMPTP, we stand tall,” she said. “And we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. You share the wealth because you cannot exist without us.”

The union’s three-year film and TV contract expired on June 30. The negotiations were then extended until 11:59 p.m. PT on July 12, 2023.

The AMPTP said early Thursday that SAG-AFTRA negotiators refused to extend the deadline again.

“This is the union’s choice, not ours. In doing so, it has dismissed our offer of historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses, and more,” the AMPTP said in a statement. “SAG-AFTRA has put us on a course that will deepen the financial hardship for thousands who depend on the industry for their livelihoods.”

SAG-AFTRA leaders represent 160,000 members.

The union sent the strike order to members Thursday afternoon, which said they were to immediately stop acting, singing, dancing, performing stunts, doing voice acting, narration, stand-up work or working as background extras. Members were also told not to attend movie premieres, press junkets or promote their projects for consideration in the Emmy Awards race. Although they can still go to autograph signing events with fans.

Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the union’s national executive director and chief negotiator, said at the news conference that members who are broadcast journalists, work in interactive entertainment, audiobooks, music, commercials and other areas “will not be directly impacted” because they have separate contracts.

Last month, SAG-AFTRA said members had voted by 97.91 percent to authorize a strike.

Actors will join writers on the picket line in Los Angeles, New York and other cities.

The Writers Guild of America strike began on May 2.

This is the industry’s first dual work stoppage since 1960.

Businesses across the country that supply catering, clothing, props, security services and transportation for movies, TV shoots, and awards shows will also be affected by the work stoppage.

Hollywood Actors Union Orders Strike and Blasts Studios: ‘You People Are Crazy’

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