SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher responded to the proposal a group of A-List actors led by George Clooney made earlier this week in hopes of restarting talks with studios.
In her statement on Thursday, posted to her Instagram, the actress thanked the group of actors as a group, and Clooney by name, for the proposal.
“First of all, I want to thank certain members that we have on the cloud in this business for the tremendous amount of money that they contributed to our foundation. On behalf of all of the striking members that are in particular need,” she said.
“I also want to thank George Clooney for organizing the suggestion that we raise the [payment] caps off of the dues so that the highest paid members can contribute,” she continued. “And although that’s extremely generous, [and] we accept that graciously, that does not impact the contract that we’re striking over whatsoever.”
Drescher explained that because SAG-AFTRA is a federally regulated organization, “the only contributions that can go into our pension and health funds must be from the employer.” As a result, those benefits, she added, must come from the contract they eventually reach with studios.
“That’s kind of apples and oranges,” Drescher said, “just so everybody understands that.”
Drescher also said that SAG-AFTRA lawyers and contract negotiators nixed Clooney’s residuals proposal. “They said that, unfortunately, it doesn’t hold water,” she said.
Drescher said that the guild is very appreciative of the donors’ “desire to be supportive,” but asserted that SAG-AFTRA is “still waiting for the CEOs to return to the table so we can continue our talks.”
By walking away from talks, she continued, the studios “are not really in a negotiation. And walking away from the table actually is not only very naughty, but it also is not legal.”
Drescher asserted that guild members “are very strong in our solidarity,” and that they have “cracked the code” on the “flaw” in how compensation is calculated in the streaming model. And as such, she argued, the union should stand firm until the studios return to the table. She also indicated that the guild intends to stick by their proposal for a per-subscriber fee that the studios objected to last week.
She concluded by thanking “all of the members and our strike captains who have been out there each and every day in inclement weather, protecting our picketers and all of our negotiating committee national board,” adding that “this too shall pass.”
“But this is the moment where we don’t succumb to pressure. This is the moment that we stand tall and we hold firm. As Frederick Douglass said, power concedes nothing without demand it never has, and it never will.”
Clooney’s proposal involves lifting the $1 million cap on dues payments to SAG-AFTRA and would restructure the payment process for actors so that the lowest paid actors on a production would be the first to receive residual checks.
In a statement first sent to Deadline, Clooney estimated that lifting the cap would bring $50 million annually to SAG-AFTRA, which could be used to fund programs to support guild members facing financial hardship.
The proposal was presented to SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and national executive director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland in a virtual meeting on Tuesday with Clooney and multiple top figures in Hollywood, including Tyler Perry, Ben Affleck and Emma Stone.
The actors expressed concern over the impact that the guild’s ongoing strike is having on working-class actors and crew members and asked questions about the sticking points between the guild and studios, according to individuals with knowledge of the talks.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke off talks last Wednesday and publicly released its latest proposal to the guild in a move nearly identical to the one done when talks between the AMPTP and the Writers Guild of America stalled in late August before resuming and reaching a deal weeks later.
The AMPTP claimed that SAG-AFTRA’s proposal included a levy of $1 per streaming service subscriber to the union, which would in turn distribute that money to actors. The studios also claimed that the contract’s overall cost stood at over $800 million and would “create an untenable economic burden.”
SAG-AFTRA accused AMPTP in a memo to members of misrepresenting the cost of its proposed contract and its revenue sharing proposal, which the guild estimated at $480 million with a 57 cent per subscriber payment.
“These companies refuse to protect performers from being replaced by AI, they refuse to increase your wages to keep up with inflation, and they refuse to share a tiny portion of the immense revenue your work generates for them. We have made big, meaningful counters on our end, including completely transforming our revenue share proposal, which would cost the companies less than 57 cent per subscriber each year,” the guild’s negotiating committee wrote.
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