This significant labour strike is the largest in Hollywood in six decades. The first dual strike since 1960 has reignited fervour against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The strike coincides with a historic heat wave sweeping Southern California.
Outside Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California, crowds of protesters raised their voices. Further chanting, “Fists up, curtains down, LA is a union town.” Food trucks lined the area, serving churros, boba tea, and cold lemonade to protesters enduring the scorching midday heat. It reached a sweltering 98 degrees Fahrenheit (36.7 Celsius).
Despite the oppressive sun, the mood remained upbeat. Demonstrators sprayed each other with water to cool off and danced to reggaeton music. Meanwhile, passing cars honked in support of signs that read, “Honk if your boss is overpaid.”
Parents on the picket line lifted their children on their shoulders and pushed toddlers in strollers. Exchanging high-fives with signs bearing defiant lyrics from Olivia Rodrigo’s latest single, “Vampire,” and exuding “Big Strike Energy.”
“The jig is up,” declared Fran Drescher, president of SAG-AFTRA and former star of “The Nanny,” during a press conference on Thursday. “The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, A.I. If we don’t stand tall right now, we’re all going to be in trouble.”
The support from SAG members was acknowledged by comedian and writer Adam Conover. He is a member of both SAG and WGA and serves on the negotiating committee for the latter. Conover expressed confidence, saying, “If you are gaining momentum like we are 70-odd days into a strike, you are going to win.” He highlighted the significant impact of having picket lines filled with support from multiple unions.
The last dual strike was six decades ago
The last time the SAG and WGA of Hollywood simultaneously went on strike was more than six decades ago. Conover emphasized that their previous strike in 1960 resulted in crucial victories. Securing health and pension plans and the existence of residuals. Now, executives are being confronted with the reality that they cannot shoot anything until they come back and negotiate a fair deal, not with one union but with both.
Zora Bikangaga, a member of both guilds, described Friday’s picket as “invigorating” and a testament to how the issues faced by writers are pervasive throughout the entire industry.
While the Hollywood industry’s business model has undergone significant changes since the last strike. Actors argue that their rates and contracts have not evolved to keep up with inflation and other transformations.
“They use the gig economy as a way to say, ‘This is how you can be more independent.’ In fact, what it does is diminish the value and strength of organized labour,” expressed actor Ron Song. He appeared in Amazon Freevee’s “Jury Duty,” which received four Emmy nominations this week.
Former co-stars reunited
Former co-stars and acquaintances reunited at the demonstrations, with some not having seen each other since the start of the coronavirus pandemic over three years ago.
The first full day of the dual strike was marked by a combination of high energy—joy and unity mixed with anger and frustration.
For actor Stacey Travis, who has actively participated in SAG-AFTRA for years, the decision to strike was a weighty one.
“It feels extraordinary and it feels sad,” she expressed. “It’s very difficult on everyone, so we’ve always taken it incredibly seriously. So it’s only when we’re backed up against the wall and we have no options that we find ourselves here.”
Actor Peter Carellini summed up the reasons for striking, saying, “It’s all of it for me. It’s A.I. It’s residuals. The fact that Bob Chapek, Bob Iger, David Zaslav are making untold millions in bonuses while writers and actors are going to the Emmys with negative bank accounts.”