AceShowbiz - More 400 actors have signed a letter to SAG-AFTRA urging the leadership to take a harder line as negotiations for a new film and TV contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers reach a critical point. Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and other high-profile actors are "prepared to strike" in order to achieve a "transformative deal."
In the message sent to the union leadership and its negotiating committee, the A-listers noted that "a strike brings incredible hardships to so many, and no one wants it. But we are prepared to strike if it comes to that." They expressed their concern that "SAG-AFTRA members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not."
"This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it's not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us," they wrote. "We ask that you push for all the change we need and protections we deserve and make history doing it. If you are not able to get all the way there, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the membership, and join the WGA on the picket lines. For our union and its future, this is our moment. We hope that, on our behalf, you will meet that moment and not miss it."
The actors specifically asked for a "seismic realignment" of minimum pay rates, streaming residuals and exclusivity provisions. They also called for a transformation to self-taped auditions practices and major regulation of artificial intelligence, making sure that the deal "protects not just our likenesses, but makes sure we are well compensated when any of our work is used to train A.I."
The signatories included the likes of Bob Odenkirk, Mark Ruffalo, Liam Neeson, Kevin Bacon, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, Lena Waithe, Laura Linney, Glenn Close, Rami Malek, Patton Oswalt, David Duchovny, Chelsea Handler, Eva Longoria, Sarah Polley, Quinta Brunson, Parker Posey, Kyra Sedgwick, Chloe Sevigny, Ben Stiller, Neil Patrick Harris, Constance Wu, Billy Eichner and many more.
The letter comes just days after Fran Drescher, the president of the union, appeared in a video on Saturday, June 24 with national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland to inform the union's 160,000 members that talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) had been "extremely productive" so far. The video met with some pushback, as some members felt that it appeared leadership was ready to settle for too little.
The current contract expires Friday at midnight PT, and the leadership has the power to call a strike as soon as Saturday if no agreement is reached. This comes as the Writers Guild of America is on Day 57 of its strike against the AMPTP over its own film and TV contract.
Read the full letter below.
Dear SAG-AFTRA Leadership and Negotiating Committee,
Thank you for your hard work and your leadership navigating through this difficult negotiation in a truly unprecedented time. As SAG-AFTRA members, we've been impressed over the last few months by how our leadership outlined the unique stakes of the negotiations and the need for a realignment in our industry. We were glad to see SAG-AFTRA lead the way among the guilds in identifying AI as a threat to our livelihoods that must be addressed right now, a "game changer." We felt as though you understood how wildly our pay and our residuals have been undermined, how long we're being held between seasons. We've been filled with pride watching the union come together and deliver such an incredibly strong strike authorization vote.
But solidarity demands honesty, and we need to make clear our resolve. A strike brings incredible hardships to so many, and no one wants it. But we are prepared to strike if it comes to that. And we are concerned by the idea that SAG-AFTRA members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not. We hope you've heard the message from us: This is an unprecedented inflection point in our industry, and what might be considered a good deal in any other years is simply not enough. We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories. With inflation and continued growth in streaming, we need a seismic realignment of our minimum pay and new media residuals, our exclusivity carveouts, and other terms. We also think it's absolutely vital that the deal restore dignity to the casting process by regulating how self-tapes are used. This is an enormous problem for working class actors. And especially as regards Artificial Intelligence, we do not believe that SAG-AFTRA members can afford to make halfway gains in anticipation that more will be coming in three years, and we think it is absolutely vital that this negotiation protects not just our likenesses, but makes sure we are well compensated when any of our work is used to train AI. We want you to know that we would rather go on strike than compromise on these fundamental points, and we believe that, if we settle for a less than transformative deal, the future of our union and our craft will be undermined, and SAG-AFTRA will enter the next negotiation with drastically reduced leverage.
This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it's not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us. We ask that you push for all the change we need and protections we deserve and make history doing it. If you are not able to get all the way there, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the membership, and join the WGA on the picket lines. For our union and its future, this is our moment. We hope that, on our behalf, you will meet that moment and not miss it.