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Labor Day is more than just a long weekend of beaches, barbecues and block parties. It is a national celebration marking the economic and social contributions of American workers. How ironic, then, that SAG-AFTRA members are observing this 141st Labor Day on strike against a global industry that refuses to fairly recognize the contributions of workers that drive its economic success.
When our deal closes on July 12, representatives from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (including major studios and streamers such as Amazon, Apple TV, Disney, Fox, Netflix, NBCUniversal, Paramount Global, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros., Discovery and others) We were ready to continue to negotiate. The answer is a hard „no”. AMPTP went even further and told us that „it will be a while before they are ready to talk” with us again. It’s actually been a while. More than 52 days later, we are still ready and willing to negotiate a fair deal, but have not heard a word from AMPTP.
AMPTP’s stubbornness and silence are irrational. The only way for the parties to resolve the strike is to talk. Their refusal to even talk to us seems to be a deliberate attempt to prolong the strike and inflict maximum pain. Some economists estimate economic losses of around $5 billion as a result. Or, as one anonymous studio executive told a news outlet, it could be their endgame to „drag out the strike until union members lose their apartments and start losing their homes.”
If it was drama, it failed. Rather than exhaustion, they see the inherent resilience, unity and togetherness of our members.
Every day, with every word, with every new crisis PR consultant, this huge billion dollar industry is ensuring its ultimate failure. Actors know that they are engaged in the fight of their professional lives to secure a stable life, and we do not weaken or waver because the fight is just. We must protect what professionals in our industry deserve: economic fairness and a stable and dignified life.
That means minimal increases to keep up with inflation address the current streaming model, which reduces residual income and ignores our members’ contributions to the most successful products. Actors deserve compensation that reflects the value they bring to streamers who profit from their labor. Also, any agreement we reach must include the protection of artists’ images, voices and performances against artificial intelligence technologies. We have developed comprehensive provisions for informed consent and fair compensation when a „digital replica” is created or our performance is altered using AI.
We called this strike, which was approved with the approval of 98% of our members – knowing we had done everything we could to avoid it, but the AMPTP refused to negotiate reasonably. Companies represented by AMPTP have prioritized additional billions in profits and even more stratospheric CEO salaries. While middle-class actors struggle to make ends meet, studio profits are at an all-time high, lining executives’ pockets.
The entertainment industry cannot survive without the creativity that fuels its bottom line. We continue to call on AMPTP and the executives they negotiate with to recognize what actors, writers and other entertainment professionals deserve – and what our industry needs to survive: a contract that provides fair compensation, residuals and revenue sharing over safety rails around AI technology.
Our strike is the catalyst for a historic cultural shift, but it’s not just about the artists. We have been on strike since the Writers Union strike began on May 2. Their righteous struggle and powerful solidarity help strengthen our own resolve. AFL-CIO, American Federation of Musicians, Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Laborers International Union of America, Producers Guild of America, Teamsters and The. Basic Crafts. All American workers join our struggle. We are proud to stand with them at this critical moment for entertainment labor and the global union movement.
In fact, most Americans are on our side. In poll after poll, more Americans side with writers and actors than with conglomerates. It’s an existential fight for our members, but it’s a fight almost every American can understand. The fight for equality and fairness at work is global.
Tomorrow is a day off from our picketing for Labor Day, but we’re still fired up and will be back tomorrow. A deep commitment and pride in continuing to fight for actors, writers and workers across the country and to recognize what our work contributes to the American achievement. Let’s stand together and win.
Duncan Crabtree-Ireland is SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator.
(Pictured: SAG-AFTRA President Fran Treasure and Duncan Crabtree-Ireland On July 13 the union began the first industry-wide television and film strike in 43 years.)
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