Actors and writers on strike rally in Philadelphia and Chicago

An impressive group of writers and actors held rallies in Philadelphia and Chicago on Thursday as the labor unrest that has stalled Hollywood spreads to more cities.

While Los Angeles and New York are the epicenter of the strike, there are dozens of small and medium-sized locals representing performers and writers across the country.

“We have the same problem,” Philadelphia SAG-AFTRA local president Nicky Izanek said en route to Thursday’s rally. “A lot of people are looking at Los Angeles and New York, but our problem is their problem.”

The Philadelphia rally at Love Park was attended by actors Cheryl Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter, stars of the popular Philadelphia TV show Abbott Elementary. Ralph said, “Enough, we want more.” Actors David Morse and Brian Anthony Wilson were also in attendance.

Leaders of the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) last week unanimously voted to initiate a strike, joining the Writers Guild of America and leaving on May 2.

“We are the voices of the multi-trillion dollar TV theater streaming industry, and we all have a common goal: to earn a living wage in an industry that takes advantage of us,” Izaneck said.

In Chicago, hundreds of strikers, many wearing black SAG T-shirts, marched in Millennium Park and chanted slogans. “We will unite / unite / never divide.” A small brass band accompanied the strikers, playing “This Land Is Your Land” at one point. The billboard read, “Corporate greed stinks.” Cars honked their horns and cheered. Many trade unions were represented, including teamsters and teachers.

The Motion Picture and Television Producers Alliance and the trade unions representing studios, streamers and production companies are at a distance, and no negotiations appear to have taken place or been planned.

“People would be surprised to hear that 87% of our members make less than $26,000 a year, but that’s just under what it takes to qualify for health care. So this is a national problem,” Izaneck said.

America is dotted with movie and television sets. Cities such as Chicago, home to shows like “Chicago Med,” “Chicago PD,” and “The Chee,” have halted filming until the strike is resolved. More than 30 large-scale productions took place in Massachusetts last year. On Wednesday, the Strikers hit the streets of Boston.

In Chicago, Courtney Liu, a member of SAG-AFTRA since 2010 and star of Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Chicago PD, took the stage to rally fellow actors and writers fighting for AI protection and streaming revenue.

“The whole business model has changed, but so have our contracts,” she said. “It costs billions of dollars to stream and they are crying out of bankruptcy.”

She said the rallies outside New York and Los Angeles are an important step in showing that many of the issues actors and writers are fighting are global issues.

“We are very upset when people say that Hollywood actors are on strike,” Liu said. “We are not Hollywood actors. We are working class actors.”

“I think they say Hollywood actors because people have this feeling, ‘Oh, Hollywood actors are millionaires, they make a lot of money, they’re greedy.’ No, 86% of our members are not eligible for medical care.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger last week argued that the entertainment industry’s recovery from the pandemic was not complete, and warned it wasn’t time to go on strike.

Izerek said he resented the fact that the average WGA member earns $69,000 a year, while Mr. Iger earns $74,000 a day. “Most of us know that we are performers and middle-class people. We strive to be middle-class workers,” she said.

The two unions’ main problems include nearly zero balances due to the switch to streaming systems, and the unpaid use of works and likenesses by artificial intelligence avatars.

AMPTP said it offered fair terms on these and other issues.

In Los Angeles, non-Netflix studio strikers included Sarah Silverman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Witasuke and Kendrick Sampson. Kristen Schaal was spotted standing in the picket line outside Disney Studios.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button