The Writers and Streamers Strike is Over. But the Actors will be a Tough Negotiation.
By Roger Paradiso
The writers and streamers reached a tentative deal on September 24th. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) members have been advised to not picket. They can, however, join the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) picket lines. This is not thrilling to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) who want the writers back on the big shows. Some are estimating ratification and a return to work will not take until Thanksgiving.
“All attention will now turn to ratifying the WGA deal and getting SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP back to the bargaining table to work out a deal to end the actors’ strike….Hollywood and the entertainment industry can breathe just a little easier, but economists estimated that the dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have cost California’s economy some $5 billion.” —Deadline
We wonder how much Governor Newsome influenced the wealthy streamers to get this done before the California economy suffered more losses.
AMPTP recently linked up with the Levinson Group, a crisis PR firm to make them look better. (They also represented Elizabeth Holmes). And we have to wonder what the firm has told the streamers. I am sure it wasn’t that they were winning the fight.
SAG President Fran Drescher mocked hiring the Levinson Group in front of unemployed and locked-out writers and actors. “You don’t need to, AMPTP, hire expensive publicists to make you look good,” the former Nanny star told union members gathered outside Paramount. “They can’t compete with our authenticity and our sincerity. You don’t have to do that AMPTP, just do the right thing.” —Deadline
Here’s the WGA’s message to members:
We have reached a tentative agreement on a new 2023 MBA, which is to say an agreement in principle on all deal points, subject to drafting final contract language.
What we have won in this contract – most particularly, everything we have gained since May 2nd – is due to the willingness of this membership to exercise its power, to demonstrate its solidarity, to walk side-by-side, to endure the pain and uncertainty of the past 146 days. It is the leverage generated by your strike, in concert with the extraordinary support of our union siblings, that finally brought the companies back to the table to make a deal.
We can say, with great pride, that this deal is exceptional – with meaningful gains and protections for writers in every sector of the membership.”
But now we go to the actors, and they are following this very carefully. Recently elected SAG President Fran Drescher will see how serious the negotiators will be in dealing with their issues. This could be a tough negotiation.
“SAG-AFTRA congratulates the WGA on reaching a tentative agreement with the AMPTP after 146 days of incredible strength, resiliency and solidarity on the picket lines,” they wrote in a statement. “While we look forward to reviewing the WGA and AMPTP’s tentative agreement, we remain committed to achieving the necessary terms for our members.”
The economy had been doing fairly well. The CEO and VPs in the big Streaming companies had been getting record contracts. That does not sit well with the actors who are still on strike. The striking actors feel they do not know how much money they should be getting in residuals because there is no transparency.
In fact, the issues are getting so twisted with rhetoric from both sides that I will just keep it simple. This strike is about greed, fairness and transparency. This strike has been very heated and complicated especially when you add Artificial Intelligence into the mix.
SAG-AFTRA members will be a tougher opponent than the writers. Their issues run deep into streaming and AI. It seems to me that the issue of AI will dominate the final days of negotiations. I can’t see the actors allowing the Streamers to use AI at all. Their images and likenesses are what the actors have to protect now — for their future depends on humans, and not robots, to be seen on the silver screen.
Anthony Rapp of the Washington Post has reported several comments that SAG members made about the strike.
Braff told the Associated Press that he was picketing with “Scrubs” co-star Donald Faison outside Netflix to support others in show business who can’t make a living. “We’re not talking about us. We’re talking about so many people that haven’t been as lucky as we are,” he said. “I heard a stat recently that only 12 percent of SAG-AFTRA makes the $26,000 that’s the minimum to qualify for health insurance every year. So, we’re here for people like that.”
The Breaking Bad actor went after studios and Disney chief executive Bob Iger in New York with “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister soundtracking his speech. “Our industry has changed exponentially,” he said. “Studios are fighting us tooth and nail to stick to the same economic system that is outmoded, outdated.
“We’ve got a message for Mr. Iger,” he added. “I know, sir, that you look through things with a different lens. We don’t expect you to understand who we are. But we ask you to hear us, and beyond that to listen to us when we tell you we will not be having our jobs taken away and given to robots. We will not have you take away our right to work and earn a decent living. And lastly, and most importantly, we will not allow you to take away our dignity!”
Drescher’s scorching news conference announcing the strike on July 13 has been called “the performance of her lifetime.” She got even hotter while picketing in Los Angeles the next day, responding to Iger’s “repugnant” criticism of the strike. “I would lock him behind doors and never let him talk to anybody about this,” she told Variety. “It’s so obvious that he has no clue as to what is really happening on the ground with hard-working people that don’t make anywhere near the salary he is making.”