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Why We Should Care About Hollywood’s SAG-AFTRA Strikes

by A.J Craig

The SAG-AFTRA strike is causing quite a buzz in Hollywood. 

SAG-AFTRA, the labor union representing 160,000 people in the entertainment industry, announced a strike during a press conference on July 13th.

To simplify, it's all about the work performed under the union's TV and theatrical contracts. We're talking major feature films and television shows, whether they're on traditional networks, cable channels, or streaming platforms, having to step back. 

But why?

Despite advancements in social media, the television and film industry remain the favoured form of entertainment for many consumers - and the beating heart of both of those industries is Hollywood. 

However, when writers, actors, and those behind the scenes are overworked, underpaid, and at risk of being ousted by artificial intelligence then reasons for striking become crystal clear.

On May 2nd, 11 weeks ago, members of the Writers Guild of America began their strike. 

The union and its members opposed a new contract with trade association, AMPTP, which underdelivered on expectations regarding residual payments to talent through streaming services, fairer payment for work and job security following the increasing presence of A.I throughout the industry. 

AMPTP represents vavarioustudios such as Paramount, Warner Bros and Disney. As of July 13th, members of the Screen Actors Guild voted to join WGA members on the picket line after experiencing failed negotiations with AMPTP over the same issues. 

The strikes of both unions will affect TV and film production through the US and beyond as writers stop producing and reworking scripts and actors stop promoting and filming projects until a fair deal is reached.

Renowned SAG-AFTRA President and actress, Fran Drescher, spoke at a press conference concerning the strikes on July 13th after trade talks fell through with AMPTP. 

CBS News Breaking quotes Drescher as stating, “It is particularly important that this negotiation be covered because the eyes of the world and particularly the eyes of labour are upon us. What happens here is important because what is happening to us is happening across all fields of labour, by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed a priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.”

Drescher spoke of the impact of the unions strike by addressing other injustices with other industries that provide service saying, “It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands and millions of people all across this country and around the world, not only members of this union but people who work in other industries that service the people that work in this industry.”

The presidents passion hit its peak at the midpoint of the conference when she animatedly discussed the levels of disrespect given to members of the union while in talks with AMPTP;

“I am shocked by the people that we have been in business with are treating us. 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.”

Drescher ended her speech with a strong statement about the symbiotic relationship between talent and corporation: “We are labour and we demand respect. To be honoured for our contribution. You share the wealth because you cannot exist without us.”

Notably, the cast of Christopher Nolan’s long anticipated Oppenhiemer walking out of the London premiere of the movie at midnight, in alliance with strike stipulations that state no project is to be promoted during the duration of the strike. 

Ways of crossing the picket line can also include social media promotion, premieres and awards shows. This has also been the case for upcoming releases such as Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and many other upcoming releases - which is why you’re no longer seeing Margot’s iconic press looks (it’s for a good cause).

So, why should we care?

Well, The SAG-AFTRA strike is currently affecting actors' work under the union's TV and theatrical contracts. This means they are unable to participate in major feature films or scripted television projects, whether they are for network, cable, or streaming services. 

Additionally, they cannot promote any of their film or television projects that fall under these contracts.

It is possible that studios may start looking to independent creators and creatives to promote projects via social media. 

However, both SAG and WGA has made it clear that any person taking part in paid promotion or any form of scabbing (working despite a strike) during the duration of the strike risks being denied union membership in the future or even have an existing membership revoked.

So, for any aspiring influencers, don’t be tempted. 

And, for those who prefer to watch than create, perhaps its worth evaluating the date of the promoted content you start to see from your favourite creators. 

It is unclear how long the strikes will last. Some industry members anticipate mere weeks while others predict months of strike action. 

It is unclear at the time of publishing if talks are still being held between both unions with trade associations.

While it’s a significant issue in the entertainment industry, let's hope a resolution comes soon so that we can get back to enjoying our favorite shows and movies - but with all the talented people behind them being ethically treated. 

Edited by Emily Duff

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