Fran Drescher is president of SAG-AFTRA and I’m not sure if her union members voted for her, believing that she had the stones to go toe-to-toe with the studios and AMPTP. Well, she did. She entered the negotiations in good faith in recent weeks/months, truly hoping that a deal could be made to avoid a SAG-AFTRA strike. AMPTP even brought in federal mediators, I guess as an intimidation tactic to strong-arm SAG into taking a terrible deal. Drescher had the stones to walk away and she called for the strike on Thursday. She gave a barn-burner of a speech announcing it too:
Variety transcribed her speech – go here to read it. She sounded a lot like a working-class union leader, speaking about how the CEOs and Wall Street get greedy and forget about all of the labor they are exploiting. She also said, in part:
“We have a problem, and we are experiencing that right at this moment. This is a very seminal hour for us. I went in in earnest thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this move is not lost on me, or our negotiating committee, or our board members. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions, of people all across this country and around the world — not only members of this union, but people who work in other industries.
“And so it came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads. But we had no choice. We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way 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. Shame on them.
“They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity. Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions. Because at some point, the jig is up. You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored. The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI.
“This is a moment of history and is a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble. We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines and big business who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family. Most of Americans don’t have more than $500 in case of an emergency. This is a very big deal, and it weighed heavy on us. But at some point you have to say, ‘No, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this?’
From what I’m seeing on Twitter, the AI stuff is completely bonkers – AMPTP wanted to scan background actors and create AI images of those actors in perpetuity, all while only paying the original background actors for one day of work. In addition to that, none of the streaming companies want the WGA or SAG-AFTRA to sniff around their in-house streaming numbers. Unlike broadcast television, there’s no neutral third-party with the capability to track viewership numbers or “streams,” so for companies like Netflix, Hulu, Paramount, Disney+, they all basically self-report… to their investors. There’s no mechanism for actors and writers to say “hey, my show had 300 million streams, can I be paid more than scale with no residuals?” Anyway, power to the people.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.