The nationwide SAG-AFTRA union took to picket lines this year on July 14, joining writers who began striking against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) six weeks earlier in May. With such actions, union actors in movies and television programs filmed in D.C. are not working, and other businesses that support the industry are losing revenue.
The Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), known as SAG-AFTRA, is an umbrella union representing 160,000 actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and other media professionals.
SAG-AFTRA has been negotiating with AMPTP, the entertainment industry’s representative, negotiating on behalf of over 350 motion picture and television producers, including its member companies and their production entities of studios, broadcast networks, certain cable networks and independent producers.
It is a David vs. Goliath scenario.
What SAG-AFTRA Seeks for Its Members
The core demands from SAG-AFTRA focus on general wage increases, protection against the use of actor images through artificial intelligence (AI), boosts in compensation for successful streaming programs and improvements in health and retirement benefits. AI also is a concern for the Writers Guild Association and The Recording Academy, also known as the Grammys.
“The landscape has changed dramatically for actors and for others who play a significant part in the production of movies and television programs,” said Towanda Underdue, a National Board of SAG-AFTRA member currently on the association’s Negotiating Committee.
Underdue, a Baltimore actor, represents the Washington-Mid Atlantic Local of SAG-AFTRA, which includes D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.
She recently spoke about the negotiations during a guest appearance on WIN-TV, the digital platform show produced by The Washington Informer.
“As many people know, many things have gone from network to streaming. Streaming platforms are getting millions and millions of viewers,” said Underdue on WIN-TV. “There haven’t been any parameters around how performers are compensated. Sometimes we literally get pennies from the streaming network platforms.”
How Other Businesses Are Suffering With the Actors’ Strike
Underdue emphasized that it is not just actors on the screen that are impacted by this ongoing strike, businesses that serve the film industry are also affected.
“The entertainment industry impacts so many different occupations,” continued Underdue.
“We are talking about those who build our sets, move gear around, drivers, who work on wardrobe, catering, restaurants, hotels, and security. Our fellow unions, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the teamsters are also impacted.”