On August 22, 2023, striking SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) workers held a national day of action in support of workers’ demands for better pay, fair residuals, and protections against artificial intelligence. Members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) have been joining SAG-AFTRA picket lines across the country as well as the national day of action in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City. The national day of action came after SAG-AFTRA leadership once again made clear that the union is ready and eager to resume bargaining with The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). However, AMPTP has yet to respond to calls to come back to the bargaining table.
SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America (WGA) workers are continuing picketing this month as the bargaining teams demand better conditions from studios. On the picket line, chants for better wages and better working conditions are heard and solidarity honks from drivers fill the air. Members of PSL Los Angeles joined the picket line in front of Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank.
SAG-AFTRA members shared their dual struggles as actors and dancers and the poor working conditions that marked their work experiences thus far. Lyric Cruz told Liberation, “There have been a lot of deals for dancers that go back to the 1970s and have not been renewed…[and dancers are getting paid for rates] set in 1982. The time for change is now.”
Another dancer, Kai, shared that dancers are often not informed ahead of the time about the scope of the work they are asked to do. For example, when shooting a music video, Kai was asked to perform stunts without appropriate protections and had to negotiate terms through her agent. Kai also said “[As dancers] we come to set, we don’t hide anything, we come ready with all our gifts ready to work. We should be treated with the same respect…We also need residuals to qualify [for healthcare] for the work we do.”
At Volunteer Park Amphitheater in Seattle, the local SAG-AFTRA chapter led a solidarity rally vocalizing the demands of the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA, as their concurrent strikes remain ongoing. The event consisted of a gathering of local SAG-AFTRA members and Seattleite supporters, including members of PSL Seattle & Western Washington, to hear four speakers discuss the various, justified worries of entertainment industry workers. Among the speakers were the Washington State Labor Council and Martin Luther King Labor Council, some of the most important labor organizations in the Puget Sound area.
Also present was actor and SAG-AFTRA Seattle Local President, Rik Deskin, who underscored that “…what we need people to know, across the country, is that it is not just in LA, in New York, it’s 25 locals across the country, SAG-AFTRA locals, and there is AMPTP work in all states, in all the locals, and it is not just a Hollywood actor’s strike. I’ve come to learn that Hollywood isn’t necessarily the location, it is meant to describe the industry.”
On Tuesday, August 22, hundreds of SAG-AFTRA and WGA members, along with allies from several Chicago Labor unions, notably the AFL-CIO, held a mass rally in Chicago’s Grant Park. Their demands are related to wages, revenue sharing, and protection of images and performances in order to prevent the replacement of humans by artificial intelligence. The rally featured speeches from local union leaders and received endorsements from local and state political figures, including U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, Illinois state Sen. Lakesia Collins, and Alderman Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd ward). The recently elected SAG-AFTRA Chicago local president Charles Gardner addressed the crowd during the rally, saying, “This is a labor revolution. And those aren’t just my words— the media is catching it, and they’re calling it a labor revolution. How powerful is that?”
New York City
On August 25 in New York City, PSL members joined striking members of SAG-AFTRA on a picket line in front of the Paramount building in the heart of the Times Square-theatre district. The picket line was lively and spirited despite poor weather, and the workers maintained their picket through periods of heavy rainfall.
Since the start of the strike on July 14, SAG-AFTRA has maintained pickets at multiple locations throughout the city on nearly every single weekday. PSL members have attended several of these pickets in solidarity, including a massive joint picket between SAG-AFTRA and WGA on August 9 in front of the corporate offices of Warren Bothers Discovery.
“It shouldn’t be that the people at the top are making 1000 times more than the people at the bottom,” said Mark Pinals of SAG-AFTRA. “Everybody should get their fair share.”