Nine days after several of Hollywood’s top-earning actors unsuccessfully attempted to convince SAG-AFTRA leaders to consider a proposed compromise that didn’t address the issues behind the ongoing actors’ strike against the studios, a much larger group calling itself Members in Solidarity — whose ranks included some comparably heavy-hitting stars — urged the exact opposite.
Thursday night in an open letter — whose more than 3,600 signatories included Julia Louis-Dreyfus, John Hamm, Marisa Tomei, Sarah Paulson, Bryan Cranston and Sandra Oh — the actors said bluntly that they “would rather stay on strike than take a bad deal.” It’s a statement similar to the one released in June during the original round of negotiations preceding the strike.
The letter was made public hours after the conclusion of Thursday’s round of negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. It was the second day of talks that resumed on Tuesday, ending a two-week break that began when AMPTP abruptly walked out over disagreements about the guild’s proposed revenue sharing plan.
On Oct. 17, midway through that hiatus, George Clooney, joined by Scarlett Johannsson, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep, Emma Stone and other A-listers, met with SAG-AFTRA leaders. Hoping to broker an end to the strike, they offered several proposals that the guild later explained didn’t actually address the underlying issues behind the strike. The proposal also didn’t sit well with some rank and file guild members, who among other things described it as “a little bit of union busting.”
While it didn’t directly name those A-listers or refer to their proposal, in referencing “a minority unwilling to make temporary sacrifices for the greater good,” the letter serves as a clear response.
“We, the majority who voted overwhelmingly to authorize this strike, are still standing in solidarity, ready to strike as long as it takes and to endure whatever we must in order to win a deal that is worthy of our collective sacrifice,” the letter said.
The letter asserted that “everything we have as a union — every minimum payment, health and pension benefit, residual, royalty and workplace protection — it has all been won with the power of our members; the power of our solidarity.” The letter added that guild leaders “have our trust, our support and our power behind” them
Following the release of the letter, Kylie Sparks, a strike captain who also helped organize the letter, told TheWrap, “As an almost 20-year member of SAG-AFTRA and as someone who has grown up in the industry, unwavering solidarity has given us historical gains in the past. As we look to the future and generations to come, standing firm now gives us the best possible chance for our next group of actors coming up in the industry to have a career.”
“This is a once-in-a-generation fight, and we want to show our strength and tell the Negotiating Committee, who has been in constant communication with our strike captains who are on the line every day, we have their back no matter how long it takes. They show up for us, so we want to show up for them,” Sparks concluded.
While talks Thursday appear to have gone well, and the two sides will meet again Friday to continue them, the open letter came at a critical time. A studio insider told TheWrap this week that studio bosses are considering another round of hardball if negotiations aren’t wrapped up quickly.
According to the insider, if a new deal hasn’t been struck by Halloween, AMPTP may quit talks for a third time — and refuse to come back to the table until January, all but guaranteeing that the 2023-24 television season is a wash and likely bringing nearly all Hollywood business to a halt again.
SAG-AFTRA’s lead negotiator, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, told TheWrap Thursday afternoon that the guild’s “laser-focus” is on the talks, and not on what he dismissed as “rumors and whisper campaigns.”
Representatives for AMPTP didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.
Read the full letter below:
To our SAG-AFTRA Negotiating Committee:
Back in June, before we went on strike, a large group of members signed an open letter telling our leaders that we would rather go on strike than take a bad deal.
Now, more than 100 days into our strike, that is still true. As hard as this is, we would rather stay on strike than take a bad deal.
We have not come all this way to cave now. We have not gone without work, without pay, and walked picket lines for months just to give up on everything we’ve been fighting for. We cannot and will not accept a contract that fails to address the vital and existential problems that we all need fixed.
In any union, there will always be a minority who are not willing to make temporary sacrifices for the greater good. But we, the majority who voted overwhelmingly to authorize this strike, are still standing in solidarity, ready to strike as long as it takes and to endure whatever we must in order to win a deal that is worthy of our collective sacrifice. We know that our union leaders are doing everything in their power to achieve that goal as they negotiate in good faith with the companies to arrive at a new contract that will protect us and our fellow performers, now and for generations to come.
Everything we have as a union – every minimum payment, health and pension benefit, residual, royalty, and workplace protection – it has all been won with the power of our members; the power of our solidarity; the power of standing together as one to demand what is right, what is fair, and what we deserve. You have our trust, our support, and our power behind you now.
One day longer. One day stronger. For as long as it takes.
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