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Hollywood Actors and Writers Continue to Strike Until Their Paid What They’re Worth

SAG-AFTRA Strike Source:
SAG-AFTRA members picketing outside of Bronson Studios on July 12, 2023. Source:Robert Hanashiro/USA Today
WGA and SAG-AFTRA picketers outside Netflix offices in L.A. on July 14. Source: Tiffany Taylor/The Hollywood Reporter

SAG-AFTRA actors and screenwriters continued to strike on Monday with their picket signs in Los Angeles and New York. 

The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is an American labor union for 160,000 media professionals. 

Writers went on strike on May 2 and shortly after actors followed with the strike on July 14. Picketers, who have protested for nearly two months, remain united as they struggle to get by financially. 

Why are the actors and writers on strike?

Actors are striking because they couldn’t come to an agreement with studios and streamers on a new three-year contract regarding scripted TV and movies. Union leaders suggested to members that they enter a strike until an agreeable contract was negotiated. Key issues in the negotiation like artificial intelligence and adequate compensation are at stake, according to the SAG-AFTRA. Therefore, a temporary labor halt is necessary to ensure the best deal agreements. 

Kendrick Sampson, a working actor who appeared on the hit show “Insecure,” emphasized how media professionals are being paid unlivable wages. 

“I don’t think people know that like 90 percent of actors are unemployed and most of them are below the poverty line,” said Sampson to The Wrap during the SAG-AFTRA strike. 

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA), the union for Hollywood screenwriters, is also on strike. The actor union’s and writer’s union demands differ, however there is some similarity with regard to AI and residuals. 

Sampson also said via Instagram that he received 50 residual checks that totaled $86. A residual is a royalty payment that talent receives after a show has aired, which many actors claim is not enough. Actors also receive residuals from shows and TV projects that continue to air on streaming platforms and other networks. 

How much money do actors really make?

Unless you’re an A-list actor like Tom Hanks, you’re paycheck won’t be nearly as big. About 12.7 percent of SAG-AFTRA members reach the annual $26,470 that is required for union health insurance, according to guild members.

How will this affect the shows and movies I watch?

The production of numerous shows including Stranger Things, P-Valley, and Abbott Elementary has stopped due to the writer’s strike. Audiences will be waiting longer for new seasons of their favorite shows to be released. Some streamers may fall in these footsteps too, if their featured actors don’t promote their shows. Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the lowest production levels in Hollywood history. 

It hasn’t been confirmed yet if movie productions are being pushed back too because they’re far in the future. However, huge productions like Deadpool 3 and the Gladiator sequel have stopped due to the labor stoppage. It is only a matter of time until more movie productions are delayed, the longer the strike continues. 

How long will the SAG-AFTRA strike last?

The strike and production halts will proceed until a deal is made. A deal must be negotiated with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which is a group that represents the negotiations for major entertainment producers such as Netflix, Disney, and Apple. But the timeframe of when exactly a deal will be met is undetermined. 

Actress and SAG-AFTRA actress Fran Drescher taking charge in her fiery speech during the strike.
Source: Michael Loccisano, Getty Images

Fran Drescher, a well known actress and president of SAG-AFTRA, says this strike can last up to six months.

“We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity,” The Nanny actress said during the strike.

“You are systematically trying to figure out ways to carve us out of what is due us. Shame on you!”

What is being done to come to a resolution?

When the studios and union settle a new contract and the majority of union members vote to ratify that contract, then the strike will end. But until then both opposing sides continue to differ. 

Streaming platforms like Netflix have gone as far as offering $900,000 for a single AI product manager. Union members become fearful as they feel that they are being replaced by machines that can generate scripts and create characters with actors’ images. The use of AI does not require human involvement from screenwriters and actors. 

“We will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots,” said actor Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad during a recent rally in support of the SAG-AFTRA strike. 

“We will not allow you to take away our dignity.”

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