Hollywood writers and actors hold a union rally outside Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2023. The “National Day of Solidarity” rally drew an estimated 2,000 people supporting the ongoing strikes against major studios. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)
BURBANK, Calif.—About 2,000 Hollywood writers, actors, and other union supporters rallied together Aug. 22, vowing to continue their fight for fair pay outside Disney Studios.
Joely Fisher, secretary and treasurer of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), spoke
to the crowd at what strikers called a “National Day of Solidarity” rally.
“We survive a once-in-a-generation tropical storm, a hurricane, an earthquake, a ‘hurriquake,’ and we are here,” Ms. Fisher said. “We are showing up and standing up to the second-largest media company in the world. Hurricanes and earthquakes are nothing compared to the force of SAG-AFTRA and the [Writers Guild of America] striking at the same time.”
Union members also rallied Tuesday in New York City.
Josh Gondelman, a Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike captain, comic and TV writer, told
the crowd, who had gathered in the Hudson Yards area of Manhattan, they are not ready to give up and took a swipe at Bob Igor, the CEO of the Walt Disney Co.
“Our message remains the same: we will be out here day after day until we get fair contracts for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA,” Mr. Gondelman said. “When our unions came to the table with [the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] that is all we asked for and that is all we continue to ask for. These double strikes are not ongoing because of our inability to be realistic, as Bob Iger says. It is Bob Iger and the other CEOs who refuse to see the world as it is … We are not ready to give up.”
Members of SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America East walk a picket line outside of the HBO/Amazon offices during the National Union Solidarity Day in New York City on Aug. 22, 2023. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Actors and writers have walked picket lines throughout the Los Angeles area and across the country for months. The WGA
strike started 111 days before Tuesday’s rally on May 2, while the actors
went on strike July 14.
Steve Moulton, an actor, came out to the picket line for the first time Tuesday and was encouraged by the turnout.
“I think we are definitely getting our message out,” Mr. Moulton told The Epoch Times. “We have to show the people at the very top that they can’t just hoard all the wealth. People need to be paid fairly and compensated for the work that they’ve done that continues to bring in money.”
Voiceover actor Jackie Gonneau said her biggest concern in the contract negotiations was an agreement for the use of artificial intelligence (AI).
Writers and actors are seeking protection from the use of the emerging AI technology in television and movies.
Paris Barclay, secretary-treasurer of the Directors Guild of America, speaks to a large crowd of Hollywood writers and actors at a “National Day of Solidarity” rally that drew an estimated 2,000 union members outside of Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)
Ms. Gonneau, who said she has worked in the entertainment industry since she was 18 and is now near the end of her career, said she also wants to fight for the younger generation to be able to make a living as an actor.
“I feel so sorry for these kids, my daughter one of them, because you can’t make the same living that we used to,” Ms. Gonneau told The Epoch Times. “People starting out now don’t have a shot in hell to make even just a normal, middle-class living like I did. We really need to fight for the younger generation.”
The SAG-AFTRA union has yet to restart negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents more than 350 American television and film producers.
The WGA, however, has resumed talks. On Aug. 18, the union told members that negotiators met last week and continue to share proposals with the alliance.
The AMPTP has insisted on press blackouts during the strike, according to the WGA’s negotiating committee. On Aug. 4, the studios and producers were willing to talk about artificial intelligence and increase a few minimum pay schedules for television, but not willing to engage on other issues, according
to the WGA.
Actors, writers, and other union members join SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikers on a picket line in front of the offices of HBO and Amazon, during the National Union Solidarity Day in New York City on Aug. 22, 2023. (Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)
taken between Aug. 3 and Aug. 5 by the think tank Data for Progress, found that more than two-thirds of 1,124 likely voters nationwide said they supported the strikes, with only 18 percent opposed.
Even with those who view labor unions negatively, nearly half support the strikes, and only 37 percent said they opposed them.
“These polling numbers are profound,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator, told the crowd in Burbank. “The fight for workers to be fairly compensated for their labor is supported by the vast majority of American people.”
Behind the scenes, SAG-AFTRA negotiators were working closely with the writers guild and employing every strategy at their disposal to achieve a contract that everyone in this fight needs, deserves, and will get, Mr. Crabtree-Ireland added.
Anthony Bertram volunteers his skills as a barber and offers free haircuts to union members at the “National Day of Solidarity” rally outside Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., on Aug. 22, 2023. (Jill McLaughlin/The Epoch Times)