Aug 8, 2023

SAG-AFTRA President Shares What 86% of Actors on Strike are Really Paid in a Year Transcript

SAG-AFTRA President Shares What 86% of Actors on Strike are Really Paid in a Year Transcript
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Fran Drescher, the president of SAG-AFTRA, speaks about the state of the actors’ strike in Hollywood and her reaction to the deal offered by the AMPTP, the trade group representing major Hollywood studios. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):

This morning, Hollywood remains on hold, writers and studios failing to reach an agreement Friday on resuming negotiations. The meetings sought by the studios were seen as the first potential sign of a thaw between the two sides. And there are no talks planned yet with SAG-AFTRA, which represents 160,000 actors. They went on strike last month. The actor’s union has historically been more willing to negotiate, but according to this New York Times reporting, studios have been reconsidering their strategy, the primary reason, Fran Drescher.

The Times reports, quote, “When Fran Drescher took a hard line as its leader, executives shifted their focus to the other striking guild. Drescher, former star of the 1990s sitcom, The Nanny, and by the way, creator and executive producer has sharply criticized studio executives, calling them greed-driven and disrespectful people.” That’s a quote. While we may think of Hollywood actors as high paid celebrities, some of them are, the reality is many of them are not. The average salary, this is the average, $65,000, according to one analysis of labor data. On Thursday, Drescher visited picketers right here in New York, urged them to keep up their morale.

Fran Drescher (01:07):

In it to win it. And our new hashtag is yield to our deal. Yield to our deal, yield to our deal, yield to our deal.

Speaker 1 (01:21):

Spokesman for the studios, I should note, says, “We remain committed to finding a path to mutually beneficial deals with both unions.” Joining us now in studio, Fran Drescher, President of SAG-AFTRA. Good morning.

Fran Drescher (01:32):

Good morning.

Speaker 1 (01:34):

Good to have you.

Fran Drescher (01:34):

How are you both? Thank you.

Speaker 1 (01:35):

No progress?

Fran Drescher (01:37):

No. They’re not speaking to us. So I don’t know what that comment was that they want to seek a deal when you have to be able to negotiate and talk to the opposition to make a deal.

Speaker 3 (01:51):

What do you make of the characterization that [inaudible 00:01:53] just read in the New York Times reporting that you are the reason that they’ve shifted from negotiating with SAG-AFTRA to focusing on the writer strike and WGA?

Fran Drescher (02:03):

I can’t really comment on that. I actually feel like this is an inflection point. This is not something that will be resolved with incremental changes. This is a wholistic shift in contract that must occur because the business model has been changed so dramatically and they have to understand that that’s what it’s going to take. And I just want to correct, when we say that average is $65,000, that actually probably includes all the-

Speaker 1 (02:39):

It does, the highest-paid.

Fran Drescher (02:40):

… top … yes, very highest-paid.

Speaker 1 (02:41):

So what would you say is most actors make what?

Fran Drescher (02:44):

I can tell you that 86% of our members cannot meet the $26,500-a-year threshold to get their medical benefits. That’s 86% cannot make $26,500. In the real-world, that’s a part-time job. So that’s who we’re fighting for, workers.

Speaker 3 (03:12):

86% of the union’s 160,000 make less than that $26,500. You told NBC that you all are prepared for this to go for six months.

Fran Drescher (03:22):

At least.

Speaker 3 (03:23):

But if 86% of the members make less than $26,500, how can they last for six months?

Fran Drescher (03:31):

Well, first of all, they’re the ones that wanted it. We had unprecedented strike authorization vote of 97.91%. So they’re at the breaking point. There, it’s like this is do or die. So that’s their attitude. That’s why we’re also supporting interim agreements so that the journeyman performer and crew can find work. And the longer that they can sustain their rents and pay for food on the table, the more we can hold firm on our resolve.

Speaker 1 (04:16):

Okay. I want to dig into that a little bit more because I had thought that all actors that were part of the union were striking, but there are some that are allowed to continue on with their work. Some productions are still going on with some big names, like Anne Hathaway, Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson. Sarah Silverman takes big issue with this. I want to play what she said and get your thoughts on the other side. Here she is.

Sarah Silverman (04:40):

The strike is supposed to be, especially when SAG joined the strike, it’s, “Movie stars aren’t making movies for you anymore. Now, what are you going to do?” Well, they’re making movies. What the [inaudible 00:04:52].

Speaker 1 (04:52):

Is she wrong?

Fran Drescher (04:55):

Yeah, she’s wrong. And I talked to her about it and she understands that she was uninformed. And I think that from-

Speaker 1 (05:02):

Oh, wait.

Fran Drescher (05:03):

… union leaders-

Speaker 1 (05:04):

… she took that back to you privately?

Fran Drescher (05:06):

Yes. And she also publicly did, as well. I think that, as leadership, we needed to get our communication put forward in a better way so that people wouldn’t start talking amongst themselves without the correct information, but this is a very smart and strategic plan so that we can get journeyman performers and crew working. Also, it shows that we, as a union, are being equitable and fair in what our proposals are because there are independents that are willing to do it. They’re completely vetted. They have no association with the AMPTP. And if down the road they decide that they can take this and try and do it, the AMPTP essentially would be agreeing to exactly what they refuse to agree to. So it’s everything that we were at the table with, these independents must agree to. So anybody that’s going back to work right now is actually making more money than they’ve ever made and it’s showing, it’s proving that all we want is a fair deal.

Speaker 3 (06:19):

The AMPTP, that is the Alliance of Motion Picture Television Producers, they say that what they’ve offered is worth more than a billion dollars in wage increases, improvements on residuals, and healthcare contributions over three years. Is there a way to quantify, put a dollar amount on how far apart you are, if that number’s accurate, if that billion dollar is the right number they put on their deal?

Fran Drescher (06:48):

Well, let me put it into perspective for you. They want to offer us, their bottom line was, a 5% increase on the base pay of performers. That, in real money, would be less than what we were making in 2020 because it doesn’t catch us up to inflation. And they want us to accept a deal that, in real money, is less than what we made in 2020 and take us through 2026. I’m sorry, but that’s unacceptable. And they have presented us with a business model that essentially squeezes us out of our residuals. Now, I don’t know whether they thought, “Oh, goodie, this business model is going to save us a lot of money on residuals,” or they didn’t think of us at all, but either way, it’s a shameful stance to take as a company, especially when dealing with foundational contributors to their entire business.

Speaker 1 (07:51):

Fran Drescher, so many more questions. Please come back. Okay?

Fran Drescher (07:55):

I will. Thank you.

Speaker 1 (07:55):

Maybe you’ll get a resolution, come back then, but if you also don’t have one, come back.

Speaker 3 (07:59):

24 days in. Thanks so much.

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