Fran Drescher at the 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher calls AMPTP ‘greedy’ as incumbent strike begins

SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher criticized the treatment of workers in Hollywood at the start of the historic actors’ strike.

The Screen Actors Guild joins the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in a walkout that will begin at midnight. The strike order was issued against the studios after the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to agree on a new minimum bargaining agreement before their contract expired on July 12 for an extension from 30 June.

“What is happening to us is happening in all fields of work,” Drescher said at the SAG-AFTRA press conference announcing the strike. “When employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and forget the essential contributors that keep the machine running, we have a problem and we are experiencing it right now. This is a very important hour for us. I went in seriously thinking we would be able to avoid a strike. The gravity of this move was not lost on me or our negotiating committee, or our board members, who voted unanimously to go ahead with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that affects thousands if not millions of people across the country and around the world.”

He continued: “It came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads, but we had no choice. We are the victims here. We are victims of a very greedy entity. I am shocked how people we have been in business with treat us. I can’t believe, frankly, how far apart we are on so many things, how they invoke poverty, that they’re losing money left and right while giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. He’s disgusting. Shame on them. They’re on the wrong side of history right now.”

Drescher said, “We stand together in unprecedented unity. Our union, our brother unions and unions around the world stand by us as well as other unions because at some point the game is over. You cannot continue to be belittled, marginalized, disrespected and dishonored. The whole business model has been changed by streaming, by digital, by artificial intelligence (…) If we don’t stand up right now, we’re all going to be in trouble. We will all be in danger of being replaced by cars and big business, who cares about Wall Street more than you and your family. Most Americans don’t have more than $500 in case of an emergency. This is a big problem and it has weighed heavily on us. But at some point, you have to say, no, we can’t take it anymore, you guys are crazy, what are you doing? Why are you doing this? Privately, everyone says we are at the center of the wheel. Everyone else is tinkering with our artistry, but actions speak louder than words and there was nothing there. It was offensive. So we came together in strength, solidarity and unity with the largest allow-to-strike vote in the history of our union.”

Finally, he said: “What is happening right now with this business model that has been forced upon us? What are we doing? Moving furniture on the Titanic? It’s crazy. So it’s game over, AMPTP. We are tall. You have to wake up and smell the coffee. We are workers, and we stand by ourselves, and we ask for respect and to be honored for our contributions. Share the wealth because you cannot exist without us.

AMPTP representatives said in a statement below, “AMPTP member companies have entered into negotiations with SAG-AFTRA with the goal of creating a new mutually beneficial contract. AMPTP unveiled deal that offered salary increases and historical residuals, substantially higher caps on pension and health care contributions, hearing protections, shortened series option periods, and a game-changing AI proposal that protects digital likenesses of actors for SAG-AFTRA members. A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the artists who bring our TV shows and movies to life. The Union has sadly chosen a path which will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry.”

You can watch the SAG-AFTRA press conference in full here.