Since the beginning of May, the hottest celebrity sighting has been the Writers Guild of America strike line.
From star writers like Tina Fey and David Simon to top-notch players like Chris Pine, Mandy Patinkin and Susan Sarandon, WGA’s protests were filled with familiar faces. Bands like Imagine Dragons and Weezer gave concerts, and Flavor Flav was one of the countless celebrities who came up with pizza.
The momentum continued to build up this week when SAG-AFTRA announced that both the negotiating committee and the National Assembly had unanimously agreed to authorize a strike. As its members prepare for their own vote, SAG-AFTRA chairman Fran Drescher urged them to “attract three people with a firm ‘yes’ to the strike authorizing vote” in a statement. He wrote that doing so would be “an unprecedented show of solidarity”.
SAG-AFTRA’s authorization—if members vote in favor—could be a crucial turning point for the writers’ strike. But what will that mean?
Dresher’s statement calls the strike a “last resort” – a strike that provides “maximum bargaining chip” as SAG-AFTRA begins talks with studios. Still, the possibility that actors walk away can have a big impact. Steven Ross, professor and author of history at the University of Southern California Working Class HollywoodCurrently, “studios can make any movie with a script, they won’t change… But what if those actors say, ‘No, we won’t,'” he told The Daily Beast. Then everything is closed.”
“The question,” Ross adds, “is will the players go on strike? If they do, I think it will change the face of the strike.”
At this stage, Gerald Horne—Moores Professor of History and African-American Studies at the University of Houston and author of Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930-1950– Explains to The Daily Beast via email, “SAG-AFTRA authorization is critical. Just like Teamsters and other ‘under the line’ unions.” A possible note of encouragement: The general membership appears poised to vote yes, joining the other two tiers of SAG-AFTRA (the National Assembly and the negotiating committee) to approve the strike if necessary.
“I can’t remember when all three came out,” Ross said. “… Sometimes you have a split between the National Board and membership. But here it looks like there will be a membership vote for all three to come out.”
As for Hollywood’s other syndicates? Both Teamsters and members of the International Association of Theater Workers (IATSE) have helped the WGA shut down multiple productions since the strike began. By the way, it’s known as the Directors Guild of America. Variation more recently, he described it as “guilds that see studios as partners, not enemies” – a little more up in the air.
The DGA has already started its negotiations, but has yet to vote for a strike. in a column for Variation, “We will fight at all costs for a strong contract that treats our members fairly and allows us to share in the success of a thriving entertainment industry,” wrote DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter.
But this week, Variation He reported that the DGA had instructed dual members of both guilds (contrary to WGA’s instructions) to make minor scenario changes during the strike. This seems to line up with a tweet from director and writer Boots Riley. tweeted During the second week of the strike, the DGA sent a letter stating that “DGA members who are also the WGA can still perform services that the WGA has asked us not to do during the strike.”
“Me and a group of other dual DGA/WGA members have decided not to heed this advice,” Riley wrote. add later He said avoiding such work is “a gesture of solidarity that will make the strike go faster”.
DGA is not a single unit frustrate part of it members. Last week, she too faced backlash when Drescher appeared on the strike line to support the WGA, drawing a line between their concerns and those of the actors in her union. (SAG-AFTRA and Drescher representatives did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.)
Yet, to borrow a word from Drescher, something about this moment feels unprecedented, or at least powerful. Streaming has upended the entertainment industry, wiped out leftovers (among other things) and flooded our screens with a plethora of content created by workers whose bosses say their salaries are roughly equal to the salaries they collectively demand.
Maybe that’s why memes started popping up on social media about the possibility of a combined trio – SAG-AFTRA, WGA and DGA. (And yes, at least one of these includes: Subrogation.)
Meanwhile, the effects of the strike are already palpable. From the starless Movie and TV Awards to the somewhat erratic prominence to the upcoming Tony Awards – MTV reportedly struck a deal with WGA to go without any script material – the absence of both writers and their allies speaks for itself. (Tony Awards representatives did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.)
But what if SAG-AFTRA authorizes a strike? “I would expect ‘heavy lawsuits from the studios’ and maybe even a ‘lockout,'” Horne wrote. ) sets – effectively stripping these workers and their allies from their payrolls.
Meanwhile, Horne said, “I would expect the unions to respond by expanding their reach. How so? Presenting their war as a struggle for all whose livelihoods will be threatened not just by artificial intelligence but by the growing employer power.” (Think: lawyers, accountants, and writers outside the entertainment industry.)
“Part of the goal will be to gain popular support,” Horne wrote, “not an easy goal to achieve in a country where unions have been on the defensive and often demonized.”
While Ross suspects that the WGA’s strike will continue for months if SAG-AFTRA is blocked from participating, a strike from the actors union could change everything. Looking back at the same bloody period as Horne, Ross remembered that SAG-AFTRA’s alliance with IATSE over CSU was a crucial step towards the demise of the second group. “Out of the three groups,” he said, referring to WGA, DGA, and SAG-AFTRA, “I think the players are by far the strongest.”
Beyond Hollywood, Ross added, the current writers’ strike was a pivotal moment for the broader labor movement. “It’s not just about the movie industry,” he said. “This is also about the future of labor-capital relations and how it will progress.”