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The union representing Hollywood actors and performers goes on strike

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

It's a lucky break for pop culture that "Oppenheimer" the movie is in the can. That's because actors are now on strike.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Their union, SAG-AFTRA, called for the work stoppage against the big studios.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Mandalit del Barco is in Los Angeles. This hasn't happened in decades. So what does it look like?

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Some of the actors from SAG-AFTRA have already been picketing outside the studios in solidarity with striking screenwriters. But starting this morning, there will be so many more. The union has more than 100,000 actor members. This is the first time since 1960 that there's a double strike in Hollywood with the actors and writers. Back then, the strikes resulted in union members getting health care and pensions, and it set up a residual system to compensate writers and actors when movies were aired on TV. Now it's a whole new Hollywood ecosystem, especially with the streaming platforms, and actors don't feel they're getting their share of the pie. That's what the president of SAG-AFTRA, Fran Drescher, said when announcing the strike.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

FRAN DRESCHER: The jig is up. You cannot keep being dwindled and marginalized and disrespected and dishonored. The entire business model has been changed by streaming, digital, AI.

DEL BARCO: She spoke about actors not wanting to be replaced by machines and wanting to share the profits of the Hollywood companies.

MARTÍNEZ: What are studios saying?

DEL BARCO: Well, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, said they offered salary increases and a, quote, "groundbreaking" proposal on AI. In a statement, the Studio Alliance said that SAG-AFTRA has chosen a path that will lead to financial hardship for everyone who depends on the industry. And, you know, in this hard economic climate, studios and the streamers have already been laying off workers. Just before the strike was called, Disney's CEO Bob Iger said the writers' and actors' demands were not realistic. SAG-AFTRA obviously disagrees.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And you were at the press conference where Drescher gave that fiery speech. What else does she have to say?

DEL BARCO: Well, certainly Fran Drescher delivered quite a performance, beyond anything she did on her TV show "The Nanny," though once on the show, her character did refuse to cross a picket line. She got cheers for speaking out about how the contract negotiations went down. She blasted studio executives for being insulting and greedy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DRESCHER: I am shocked by the way the people that we have been in business with are treating us. I cannot believe it, quite frankly - how far apart we are on so many things, how they plead poverty, that they're losing money left and right when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It is disgusting. Shame on them.

DEL BARCO: I do need to make clear that many of us at NPR are members of SAG-AFTRA, but broadcast journalists are under a very different contract, and we're not on strike.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, when the writers went on strike, you could say Hollywood at least slowed down. Now it's the actors. I mean, we're at a standstill in Hollywood. So how big of a deal is this, this double strike?

DEL BARCO: Now, according to SAG-AFTRA's rules, striking performers are not allowed to act, sing, dance or do stunts. They can't promote their projects - so no red carpets, no premieres, no press junkets, no award shows, no new movies or TV shows. So now the entire Hollywood machine is on pause.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Mandalit del Barco. Thanks for the info.

DEL BARCO: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.