Film and television writers and actors united in July 2023 to strike against corporate executives — and they’re not backing down! The Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined the picket lines two months after the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) commenced their strike in May 2023. The reason for their dual movement? The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) didn’t meet the guilds’ demands over streaming residuals and there is a fear of artificial intelligence (AI) disrupting workers’ futures in the industry.
Who Are the WGA and SAG-AFTRA?
SAG-AFTRA is a union that includes film actors, broadcast journalists and announcers, news writers and editors, dancers, DJs, program hosts, puppeteers, singers and recording artists, stunt performers and voiceover professionals.
Why Are the WGA and SAG-AFTRA Unions on Strike?
In May 2023, the WGA decided to go on strike because the studios — including the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros., Netflix and Amazon Studios — did not reach a contract agreement over pay and AI usage. The WGA argued that due to streaming services, the AMPTP cut writers’ average incomes in comparison to what they were over a decade ago when cable television was the main platform for television writing.
Additionally, the WGA noted that writers wanted AI to be used as a tool for them instead of a means to replace them.
As for SAG-AFTRA, the screen actors specifically went on strike for similar reasons. They are seeking higher pay from streaming residuals, which are the payments that artists receive after shows and movies they’ve written or acted in are replayed.
Who Is Protesting as Part of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA Strike?
As the strikes have increased in size and attention, a number of A-list celebrities and actors have joined the fight. Appearing early on in the protests was Disney Channel alum Hilary Duff, actor and director Olivia Wilde, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, Barbie star America Ferrera and Broadway icon Bette Midler.
As the protests continued, Shameless alum Jeremy Allen White joined the picket line, as did comedian Sarah Silverman and Parks and Recreation stars Aubrey Plaza and Nick Offerman. Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe showed up with his newborn baby strapped to his chest while supporting the strike, and funny man Jack Black rocked a "SAG-AFTRA STRONG" T-shirt while protesting in late July. And, in a surprising twist, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez showed her support for the picketers and protested in New York City. It's likely that more famous actors will continue showing up as the strikes continue.
When Will the 2023 WGA Strike End?
Since the AMPTP has not formed a compromise with the WGA yet, the guild is still on strike. The AMPTP reportedly does not intend to reach a deal with screenwriters for several months.
Disney CEO Bob Iger also stirred up controversy when he called the double strike “disturbing.”
“We’ve talked about disruptive forces on this business and all the challenges we’re facing, the recovery from COVID which is ongoing, it’s not completely back,” Bob said in a video interview. “This is the worst time in the world to add to that disruption. … We managed, as an industry, to negotiate a very good deal with the director’s guild that reflects the value that the directors contribute to this great business. We wanted to do the same thing with the writers, and we’d like to do the same thing with the actors. There’s a level of expectation that they have, that is just not realistic. And they are adding to the set of the challenges that this business is already facing that is, quite frankly, very disruptive.”
In order to prove their point of wide pay gaps, both unions have cited that Bob’s 2022 salary was more than $20 million.
When Will the 2023 SAG-AFTRA Strike End?
After the union announced its strike in July 2023, all actors were required to avoid attending any red carpets, press or promote their upcoming projects on social media. It is not currently clear if the AMPTP has any intention of compromising with SAG-AFTRA yet.
Are Celebrities Breaking SAG-AFTRA Strike Rules?
Celebrities are joining protestors at the picket line, but others are breaking SAG-AFTRA strike rules, namely Only Murders in the Building star Selena Gomez. The singer and actress took to social media in August 2023 with a photo of her seemingly on the set of the Hulu hit with the caption, "Missing and wanting." Though she didn't explicitly tell people to watch the newly dropped season 3 of the show, she tagged the Only Murders in the Building account, leading some followers to accuse her of breaking the SAG-AFTRA strike rules of not promoting work. Commenting on the post, one person even called the Rare Beauty founder "tone deaf."