'Moving furniture on the Titanic,' SAG-AFTRA President Drescher declares strike | Hollywood - Hindustan Times
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'Moving furniture on the Titanic,' SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher declares actor's strike for contract overhaul

Jul 14, 2023 05:07 AM IST

Hollywood actors are going on strike as SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher says the current film and TV contract is outdated and inadequate.

Hollywood actors are going on strike, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher announced on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: SAG-AFTRA union President Fran Drescher speaks next to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, at SAG-AFTRA offices after negotiations ended with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros Discovery, triggering an actors’ strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo(REUTERS)
FILE PHOTO: SAG-AFTRA union President Fran Drescher speaks next to Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, at SAG-AFTRA offices after negotiations ended with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the entity that represents major studios and streamers, including Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and Warner Bros Discovery, triggering an actors’ strike, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo(REUTERS)

The 65-year-old said the current film and TV contract was outdated and inadequate in the face of major changes in the industry, such as AI and streaming. She compared it to “moving around furniture on the Titanic.”

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Drescher said the contract needed to change too, as the business model had changed so much. “

You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too,” she said at the Union’s headquarters in LA.

The producers’ association, AMPTP, said they had offered a deal with “historic pay and residual increases,” including the “highest percentage increase in minimums in 35 years.” They said they also offered other benefits and protections for the actors, such as a “groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members.”

They said they were disappointed that the union chose to strike, as it would hurt many people who rely on the industry.

“A strike is certainly not the outcome we hoped for as studios cannot operate without the performers that bring our TV shows and films to life. The Union has regrettably chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for countless thousands of people who depend on the industry,” they said in a statement.

Fran Drescher’s scorching speech:

"Thank you, Duncan [Crabtree-Ireland, SAG negotiator], and thank you everybody for coming to this press conference today. It’s really important that this negotiation be covered because the eyes of the world, and particularly the eyes of labor, are upon us. What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.

We have a problem and we are experiencing that right at this moment. This is a very seminal hour for us. I went in in earnest thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this move is not lost on me or our negotiating committee or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions, of people all across this country and around the world. Not only members of this union but people who work in other industries that service the people that work in this industry.

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And so it came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads, but we had no choice. We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly: How far apart we are on so many things. How they plead poverty, that they’re losing money left and right, when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity.

Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions, because at some point the jig is up. You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored. The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI. This is a moment of history that is a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble. We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines. And Big Business who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family. Most of Americans don’t have more than $500 in an emergency. This is a very big deal and it weighed heavy on us. But at some point, you have to say, “No, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to us?”

Privately they all say, “We’re the center of the wheel. Everybody else tinkers around our artistry,‘“but actions speak louder than words and there was nothing there. It was insulting. So we came together in strength and solidarity and unity with the largest strike authorization vote in our union’s history. And we made the hard decision that we tell you as we stand before you today. This is major, it’s really serious, and it’s going to impact every single person that is in labor. We are fortunate enough to be in a country right now that happens to be labor-friendly. And yet we were facing opposition that was so labor-unfriendly, so tone deaf, to what we are saying.

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You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too. We are not going to keep doing incremental changes on a contract that no longer honors what is happening right now with this business model that was foisted upon us. What are we doing? Moving around furniture on the Titanic? It’s crazy. So the jig is up, AMPTP. We stand tall. You have to wake up and smell the coffee. We are labor and we stand tall and we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. You share the wealth because you can not exist without us. Thank you."

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