SAG-AFTRA’s leadership, although often divided along internal party lines, presented a united front at the Los Angeles local’s annual membership meeting yesterday. They stressed the importance of solidarity in advance of the guild’s upcoming contract negotiations, sources tell Deadline.
“The members were clear that even though we have differences, we’re putting them aside for the best interests of the union as a whole going into the negotiations,” said a member who attended the meeting. “We are 100% unified.”
The guild’s contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers begin June 7. Their current contract expires June 30.
President Fran Drescher and other leaders, including National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, told the more than 500 members in attendance that the guild will be going to the bargaining table with “a strong set of proposals,” according to members who attended the four-hour virtual meeting.
“Fran said how important the upcoming negotiations are going to be, and that we’re not messing around this time,” said another member. “She was enthusiastic and conveyed strength and solidarity.”
She also mixed it up with those who questioned her comments to Deadline last Monday while on the Writers Guild’s picket line outside Paramount Studios. Those comments have been mischaracterized by some to suggest that she was not showing enough solidarity with the writers’ strike, which she vehemently denied. Drescher, who is a member of the WGA, told her members that she is unwavering in her support of the strike.
“SAG-AFTRA is a very big union and we represent many different career paths that fall under that umbrella,” she said on the picket line. “So, it’s a very big, complicated conversation, and I don’t think what’s very important to writers – and I’m a writer, too, in the WGA – is the kind of stuff that we’re going after. So, although I’m very empathic for their needs to be honored, I feel like our conversation is gonna be very different, and I feel very hopeful that we won’t get to this point.” She followed up by saying: “We’ll always support our sister unions, always. Without solidarity within the entertainment industry unions, we undermine ourselves.”
And while SAG-AFTRA no doubt shares many of the same goals that the ongoing WGA strike is about – such as higher pay, more residuals and curbs on the potential impact of artificial intelligence on jobs – many of the Writers Guild’s key strike issues have nothing to do with actors, such as “preserving the writers room,” “minimum staffing,” full pension and health benefits for members of writing teams, and a proposal that would guarantee a “second step” if a writer is hired to write a screenplay for less than 250% of minimum.
And like every membership meeting where members are allowed to air their grievances, voices sometimes get raised, and this one was no different, although support for the ongoing Writers Guild strike and for a fair SAG-AFTRA contract was virtually unanimous.