Local News

SAG-AFTRA Strike Commences

By: Veronica Schubert

Sports Editor

In May of 2023, the Writers Guild of America, which represents more than 11,000 workers, announced a strike following their hail-mary attempt to negotiate a new contract. Pickets popped up in Los Angeles and New York, stalling film and TV production nationwide, and Los Angeles’s film office reported an activity decrease of 28.8 percent from this time last year. Late-night shows such as ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” were forced to run repeats.

Following their contract expiration with studios like Warner Bros Discovery, Universal Studios, and Paramount, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union actors joined the writers on July 14. Many actors that work with broadcasting channels are still working, and independent projects that agree to abide by SAG-AFTRA’s terms can commission workers. Many of the actors working in movies and TV shows sign short-term contracts, taking on separate jobs between contracts. Some income still comes from residuals, less now with streaming services, and residuals are fading. “We’re used to being freelancers and just being able to go along,” said Jodi Long, president of SAG-AFTRA’s Los Angeles locale. Although the strike is hitting the industry hard, the ultimate resolution will be a wage increase if they get their way. 

The strike has persisted through the summer heat, and while actors are protesting, they are getting close to losing their health insurance. To make the cutoff for insurance policies, they need to have a profitable and steady income. Difficult to attain, then sustain. Specifically, in one policy offered to screenwriters, insurance costs only 600 dollars yearly with minimal deductibles –an insurance rate unseen by most. According to USA Today, the average cost a citizen pays for health insurance in the US is 456 dollars a month. 

This strike affects a multitude of people outside of the writers and actors, including support staff, hair and makeup artists, camera operators, lights staff, and businesses that have grown around the film industry. One owner of a catering company, Steve Michelson, said to the New York Times, “We’re kind of the side effect. We depend on the film industry, but we get nothing out of this. The actors and the writers, hopefully, they’ll get a nice raise, but we get nothing out of it.” In his spare time, Michelson has been repairing trucks and doing other maintenance. Unlike the striking workers, those who lose jobs as a repercussion of labor disputes can file for unemployment insurance.

(Sources: CNN, NPR, NYT)

Categories: Local News

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