SAG-AFTRA’s interunion solidarity rally on Tuesday was highlighted by a reunion of the cast of “The West Wing,” and Martin Sheen went into full President Bartlett mode to give a rousing speech to the thousands of Hollywood union members who had joined to march outside of the Disney lot in Burbank.
“The Irish tell a story of a man who arrives at the gates of heaven and asks to be let in and St. Peter says ‘Of course, just show us your scars’. The man says, ‘I have no scars’. St. Peter says ‘What a pity, was there nothing worth fighting for,’” Sheen said in the speech, video of which you can watch above.
“Clearly this union has found something worth fighting for and it is very costly. If this were not so, we would be left to question its value. Now we are called to support the union and stand together for the long haul and stick to it like a stamp,” he added. “The studios are always seeing what is and asking, ‘Why?’ Let us continue to dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’”
After Sheen closed his speech by reciting a poem by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, his “West Wing” co-star Richard Schiff dryly remarked that trying to follow him was like “being a club singer and following Sinatra.” But Schiff noted that he has been a union member for years, not just in entertainment guilds like Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA but in blue collar unions like IBEW and Teamsters.
“I know of all these experiences with the unions and there’s one message that must be accepted, must be embraced, and it is that we stick together, we fight together, and we do not give in!” Schiff said.
Another “West Wing” alum, Bradley Whitford, said that the studios “way underestimated our resolve” as the SAG-AFTRA strike reaches its 40-day mark and the WGA strike reaches 113 days. Members of other unions like the Directors Guild, IATSE, Teamsters Local 399, and LiUNA were also present at the rally, as well as non-Hollywood unions like hotel union Unite Here Local 11 and SEIU-UHW, which was holding its own rally for healthcare workers next to the Disney lot at the Saint Joseph Medical Center.
“We’re tired of these producers going to Wall Street, crowing about their extraordinary profits to justify their obscene personal financial rewards, and then turning to us, the people who create the value of their entire lives, and telling us that this business just doesn’t work anymore!” Whitford said. “You need to pay us!”
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