NEW YORK — Thousands of striking actors joined the “Rock the City for a Fair Contract” rally at Times Square here July 25. Some 160,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike July 13.
Other unions joined the rally including the United Food and Commercial Workers, Laborers International Union of North America, Teamsters, Communications Workers of America — and members of the Writers Guild on day 85 of their strike. Both unions are on strike against the same boss outfit, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
This strike is not just for actors, actor Steven Lang told the crowd. “I’m also thinking of the craftspeople, the designers, the drivers and the stunt people,” he said to cheers. “All of them caught up in this maelstrom of inequality brought about by organized corporate greed. The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor,” he said.
Other well-known union members took part, including Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain, Brenden Fraser, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Curtin, Christian Slater and Chloe Grace Moretz.
Among the central union demands is an immediate 11% wage increase to keep up with inflation; requiring actors give informed consent and be compensated when a “digital replica” of their performance is used; compensation when a production they’re in are streamed; and better pensions and health insurance.
The problem with artificial intelligence, actor Chuckii Graves, 72, told the Militant, is “they take our image and use if for a lifetime without our consent and we don’t get paid for it.” Graves showed this reporter a picture of one of his checks for “residuals — payment for repeat broadcasts — for a movie he was in. The check was for 81 cents.
But often residuals can be a significant part of an actor’s income. “The residuals are important,” said actor Peter Previte, 31. “As it is, you can’t make it on acting alone, you have to take other jobs.”
But it’s more than that, he said. “With AI they want to put your image out there, even alter it, without your permission. It’s about your reputation and your dignity.”
Background actor John Castagliola said that because of the minimum yearly income requirement to qualify for the union’s plan, he lost his health insurance twice. “The first time was during a bad winter where I had to miss some work,” he said. “The second time was when the pandemic struck and things shut down.”
For strike updates or to join a picket line, visit: www.sagaftrastrike.org
Joanne Kuniansky contributed to this article.