Oscar winners Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and over 400 other actors have addressed SAG-AFTRA leaders in an open letter — and are threatening to strike if a harder line is not drawn regarding contact deals.
“This is not a moment to meet in the middle, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that the eyes of history are on all of us,” the members wrote in the internal Tuesday, June 27, letter, per Rolling Stone. “We ask that you push for all the change we need and protections we deserve and make history doing it. If you are not able to get all the way there, we ask that you use the power given to you by us, the membership, and join the WGA on the picket lines. For our union and its future, this is our moment. We hope that, on our behalf, you will meet that moment and not miss it.”
The actors declared that they are “prepared to strike if it comes to that” and are “concerned by the idea that SAG-AFTA (Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) members may be ready to make sacrifices that leadership is not.” The letter also requested that negotiators do not settle for anything less than a “transformative deal.” Among their concerns, the actors noted residuals, healthcare, pensions, self-tapes and that studios consider streaming growth.
“We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade,” the letter continued. “We need to reverse those trajectories. With inflation and continued growth in streaming, we need a seismic realignment of our minimum pay and new media residuals, our exclusivity carveouts, and other terms.”
Members of SAG-AFTRA previously voted to authorize a strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — which represents the major studios — if a new contract isn’t reached by the time their current contract ends on June 30.
In addition to Streep, 74, and Lawrence, 32, the signatories of Tuesday’s letter include Constance Wu, Natasha Lyonne, Laura Linney, Ben Stiller, Glenn Close, Julia Luis Dreyfus, Elliot Page, Amy Poehler, Quinta Brunson, Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum, Amy Schumer, Neil Patrick Harris and more, according to Rolling Stone.
The letter comes just days after the president of the union, Fran Drescher, appeared in a video on Saturday, June 24, alongside Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, the chief negotiator of the contract, and revealed that talks were “extremely productive” and “laser-focused on all of the crucial issues you told us are most important to you,” seemingly insinuating that a deal was close despite both sides still not seeing eye to eye on various issues.
SAG-AFTRA’s demands come after the WGA — the Writers Guild of America — officially went on strike last month after negotiations broke down between the WGA and AMPTP for a new contract. In their letter to members announcing the strike, the WGA emphasized that they negotiated for “fair pay that reflects the value of our contribution to company success and includes protections to ensure that writing survives as a sustainable profession.”
They added: “The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing. From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
The AMPTP, meanwhile, stated that they felt they offered “generous” compensation. “Negotiations between the AMPTP and the WGA concluded without an agreement today,” the AMPTP said in a statement at the time, per Variety. “The AMPTP presented a comprehensive package proposal to the Guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals. The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon. The primary sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing,’ and ‘duration of employment’ — Guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.”
Since the strike went into effect, late-night shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live! Have all gone on hiatus and are currently airing repeats. Scripted TV shows, however, are filmed in advance, so fans haven’t felt the immediate impact. However, various writer’s rooms — including Yellowjackets and Abbott Elementary — have come to a halt along with certain TV shows like Netflix juggernaut Stranger Things shutting down mid-production.