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Actors to Strike: SAG-AFTRA’s Fran Drescher Says Studios Need to ‘Wake Up and Smell the Coffee’

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It’s official: SAG-AFTRA will begin its strike tonight, with all union members being urged to join the picket lines on Friday morning (July 14).

On Thursday, the union hosted a live stream on YouTube in regard to their decision on whether to strike after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The board meeting ended around 12:10 p.m., followed by SAG-AFTRA President, Fran Drescher, and Chief Negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, speaking.

“Today we embark on a new important chapter in our union’s history,” Crabtree-Ireland said after issuing the announcement that the strike would commence. “Actors deserve a contract that reflects the changes in the industry. … Strike is an instrument of last resort.”

Drescher then took center stage and issued a passionate plea to all members of the union.

“We are being victimized by a very greedy entity; I am shocked by the way the people we have been in business with are treating us,” Drescher said. “Shame on them [AMPTP], they stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment.”

“We stand tall—you [AMPTP] have to wake up and smell the coffee… you share the wealth because you cannot exist without us,” she added.

Earlier Thursday—coming hot off of lingering negotiations—SAG-AFTRA released a statement from Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland.

“After more than four weeks of negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)… remains unwilling to offer a fair deal on the key issues that you told us are important to you,” They wrote. “Because of this, we’ve called for a meeting with our National Board this morning to vote on a strike order.”

“Our 90-year history is a testament to what can be achieved through our conviction and unity. For the future of our profession, we stand together,” they added.

A Message from the SAG-AFTRA President and Chief Negotiator: For the future of our profession, we stand together. https://t.co/FHL3jsULIa

— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 13, 2023

In early June, 98 percent of SAG-AFTRA members voted to authorize a strike if a deal could not be reached.

Pressure remained on the union’s leaders, with 1,700 members—high-profile actors among them—signing a letter encouraging them to hold their own at the negotiation table and “join the WGA on the picket lines” if a “realignment in our industry” was not made.

Key issues during bargaining included “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence and alleviating the burdens of the industry-wide shift to self-taping,” according to a post on their site.

Though negotiations were initially said to be “extremely productive” by Drescher and Crabtree-Ireland, tension had risen as the deadline inched closer—prompting an extension until July 12. In fact, Drescher all but accused the studios of stalling in order to get their last movie promotions completed before films—like the big-budget Barbie and Oppenheimer—are set to open next week.

An extension is not unheard of, with the Guild doing so in both 2014 and 2017 before reaching an agreement in July for both instances.

“The parties will continue to negotiate under a mutually agreed upon media blackout. Neither organization will comment to the media about the negotiations during the extension,” SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP previously said of the extension.

Just 48 hours before the deadline, SAG-AFTRA held a meeting with Hollywood publicists in which key strike parameters were discussed. In the event of a strike, actors would not be permitted to participate in any promotional work for television or film, as well as step away from their respective productions altogether

The strike is the first-time actors organized against the film and TV industry since 1980. However, the four-decade gap had prompted no hesitation, with SAG-AFTRA posting on social media on July 7 that they had been preparing picket signs in the event of a strike.

“If a strike becomes necessary, we’re ready,” they previously wrote on Twitter.

If a strike becomes necessary, we’re ready. pic.twitter.com/62kUzNId4e

— SAG-AFTRA (@sagaftra) July 8, 2023

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