Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and more than 400 other actors have addressed SAG-AFTRA leaders in an open letter – and are threatening to strike unless a harder line is drawn on contact agreements.
“This is not a time to meet in the middle, and it’s no exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us,” the members wrote in the Tuesday, June 27, internal letter, per rolling stone. “We ask you to push for all the changes we need and the protections we deserve and make history by doing so. If you are unable to follow through, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the members, 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 this moment and not miss it.
The cast said they are “ready to strike if it comes to that” and are “concerned by the idea that SAG-AFTA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) members may be willing to make sacrifices that leadership is not. The letter also called on negotiators to settle for nothing less than a “transformative deal”. Among their concerns, actors noted residuals, health care, retirement, self-cassettes, and that studios are eyeing the growth of streaming.
“We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom and the power of our union have all been undermined over the past decade,” the letter continues. “We need to reverse these trajectories. With inflation and the continued growth of streaming, we need a seismic realignment of our minimum wage and new media residuals, exclusivity exclusions, and other conditions.
SAG-AFTRA members previously voted to authorize a strike against the Alliance of Film and Television Producers – which represents major studios – if a new contract is not in place by the time their current contract ends on June 30.
In addition to Streep, 74, and Lawrence, 32, signatories to Tuesday’s letter include Constance Wu, Natasha Lyonne, Laura Linney, Ben Stiller, Glenn Close, Julia Luis Dreyfus, Elliot Page, Amy Poehler, Quinta Brunson, Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum, Amy Schumer, Neil Patrick Harris and more, according to Rolling Stone.
The letter comes just days after union president, Fran Drescherappeared in a video on Saturday, June 24, alongside Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the contract’s chief negotiator, and revealed the talks were “extremely productive” and “focused on all the critical issues you told us are ‘they were the most important’. over to you,” seemingly insinuating that a deal was done though the two sides still disagree on various issues.
SAG-AFTRA demands come after WGA – Writers Guild of America – officially went on strike last month after negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP for a new contract failed. In its letter to members announcing the strike, the WGA stressed that it had negotiated for “a fair wage that reflects the value of our contribution to the success of the business and includes protections to ensure the writing survives as a sustainable profession”.
They added: “The behavior of the companies has created a labor economy in a union workforce, and their unwavering position in this negotiation has betrayed their commitment to further devaluing the writing profession. From their refusal to guarantee a weekly level of employment in episodic television, to the creation of a “daily rate” in comedy variety, to their blocking of free labor for screenwriters and AI for all writers, they closed the door to their labor force and opened the door to writing as a fully independent profession. No such agreement could ever be contemplated by these members.
The AMPTP, meanwhile, said it believed it was offering “generous” compensation. “Negotiations between the AMPTP and the WGA concluded without an agreement today,” the AMPTP said in a statement at the time, per Variety. “The AMPTP presented the Guild with a full package proposal last night which included generous writer compensation increases as well as streaming residual improvements. The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve this offer, but was unwilling to do so due to the magnitude of other proposals still on the table which the Guild continues to insist on. The main sticking points are the “compulsory staffing and “tenure of employment” – the Guild’s proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether or not necessary.
Since the strike went into effect, late-night shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert And Jimmy Kimmel Live! Have all taken a break and are currently airing reruns. Scripted TV shows, however, are filmed in advance, so fans didn’t feel the immediate impact. However, various writers’ rooms – including yellow jackets And Abbott Elementary School – have stopped with certain TV shows like the Netflix juggernaut stranger things stop mid-production.