With the continued support of its members and supportive sister unions like the WGA, IATSE and Teamsters, among many others, lead negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland remains confident all involved can reach a fair deal.
“I think it’s so impressive, the unity, the strength of our members. As you’ve seen on picket lines, our members are in this fully. Our strike captains are always visible; everyone who’s coming to rallies, there is a unity of purpose that is absolutely going to bring us through until there’s a deal,” Crabtree-Ireland told Deadline on Thursday following a picket honoring Strike Captains.
“I did not expect [negotiations] would have to go so long,” he continued. “The amount of time spent without negotiating has been completely unconscionable. The studios and streamers ought to be back at the table with us now. They should have been there the first 80 days but they weren’t. I am very eager to see that happen and I believe it will happen soon. I think there’s a lot of pressure happening outside of formal channels to get people back to the table, so I’m optimistic that that will happen sometime soon. But I know that we’re just going to stand strong and get a fair deal.”
Michelle Hurd, SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member who most recently starred in Star Trek: Picard, looks back at how things have evolved across 100 days while also acknowledging the plight of other workers affected by the strike.
“It’s been interesting. Day one was sort of like being emancipated from the room. So we all came out and we’re like, ‘Yeah! Strike, strike, strike, let’s get a contract.’ And at day 100, I’m even more invigorated.” said Hurd.
“The solidarity I feel when I’m out in the streets is amazing. The fact that the WGA is still with us on these lines is a phenomenal thing because they’ve already got their contract,” she continued. “When we talk to the public people ask, ‘What about the other people like the below-the-line workers, the makeup artists, the people who are part of the tentacles that are our industry?’ They’re hurting but they are here. They are understanding because they’ve been hurting, too. They’ve never had the contracts either. So we are all so much more solidified and united in our struggle.”
Hurd understands the calls for the negotiating committee to “just end this” but she doesn’t want the sacrifices made to be for naught.
“If we acquiesce at day 100, what was this all for? We’re at day 100 because [the AMPTP] has not come to the table. When they come to the table, we are more than ready, eager and happy to negotiate,” she shared.
She added, “What’s weird is that I think they thought that the longer they waited us out, we would crack and dissolve and get weakened with our resolve. It’s the opposite, we’re sort of more enraged. We feel disrespected and condescended to that they think that we’re stupid enough that we’ll just roll over and forget why we are fighting for this good contract. The reason we’re fighting is so that the working-class actor has the ability to make a living doing this beautiful, sacred art form of storytelling that we all love so much.”
Hurd called out the lack of financial increases for SAG-AFTRA that “reflects inflation in the last four decades.” Something felt doubly at her home, which she shares with her husband, fellow actor, Garret Dillahunt.
“How is it that I’m working in an industry that has not raised those numbers since 1983? At day 100, we are more united and in solidarity. We are more focused on what it is that we want, which is a good fair wage contract to help our entire union, our 160,000 strong in multiple categories. I feel stronger than ever.”
She added, “We are on the right side of history. I understand the pain. I’m feeling it myself; I’m married to an actor. We’ve made a terrible choice because both of us are out of a job. I’m impacted by it 100%. But one day longer, one day stronger. We will get what we want.”
The picket lines have brought out actors like John Ortiz, Hollywood mainstays whose support pushes others to keep showing up on the best and worst days.
“As I got older, I was taking pride and being a homebody. But I’ve been coming out now every day since the strike started. I made that pact with myself,” Ortiz, who stars in Cord Jefferson-directed feature American Fiction.
He continued, “What I have found is that on days when I tell myself I’m going to put my headphones on and walk, are the days where I make a connection with someone. Yesterday, I struck up a conversation with someone at Sony who explained how much she’d love to walk around the whole studio with me but was unable to because she had just had surgery. She had just beat cancer. We had this amazing conversation about life and gratitude and the importance of showing up, no matter what. She’s just one example of how you can find inspiration on the picket line and make connections organically if you’re open.”
Ortiz has helped pave the way for Latino talent in theater and Hollywood for more than three decades. The industry vet can often be seen participating in the weekly flash mobs put together by Latinas Acting Up, a group started by Diana Maria Rivas and Lisa Vidal.
“I have made many connections with people whom you discover you share things in common that cross all these amazing sectors in life like cultures, races, identities and professions. As much as it hurts, it can also be pretty cool. We all want to get back to work,” Ortiz said. “I have two scenes left to shoot in this series in Toronto. I have another movie that I need to start. I also have two films I’m so proud of that I can’t promote and I won’t until we get a fair deal.”
The negotiating committee understands there are both good and bad days on the lines. Deadline has spoken to SAG-AFTRA members who have discussed how many of their bad days have turned into good ones by finding community. Hurd echoes Ortiz’s sentiments of being open to listening or just saying hello.
“I’ve come out here when I’m really mad at what’s going on, and instead of holding on to that rage, I feel inspired and I feel encouraged and supported. There’s something kind of crazy about the world of striking. You have a community of people that becomes your family. Like when you feel vulnerable, or you feel like you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to hear you. You can come out to the strike line and people who you may never have known before and you may not have ever gotten the opportunity to meet. You meet eyes and suddenly it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so glad I saw you.’ Your worst day becomes your best day in a situation that seems like it’s dire, but it’s not. It’s actually empowering.”
Kevin E. West, a negotiating committee member who most recently appeared in The Righteous Gemstones, invites members to keep coming out while understanding many are limited in the time they have available.
“Solidarity is not about a percentage. Solidarity is a core belief system and from a standpoint of your personal strength, your financial dependence and your emotional mental state of being. We simply need everybody to come out when they can and as often as they can,” he said. “Whether it’s 45 minutes, three days a week or three hours two days a week. It makes no difference to us. Pick a lot anywhere in this country, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. Get out what you can do. Bring a friend and catch up here instead of over lunch. You can hit the picket line with a snack and carry a sign. We just simply need you out there showing we are not going anywhere.”
Nicole Cyrille, a SAG-AFTRA negotiating committee member and chair of its LA Performers with Disabilities, touted the strong membership turnout across 100 days. She has helped organize pickets such as “Ramping Up: A Cross-Union Picket For Disabled Artists” in August.
“Every member that shows up is equally as important. This is the power. We show power by being united and this union is more united than ever before,” Cyrille said. “You can see the energy of the membership that’s out here. We’re committed, and driven and are not going to back down until we get a fair deal for our entire membership. Nobody wants to be on strike, right? But seeing this in the community and the unity is something that we will carry in our hearts forever. So, thank you to every single member who’s walked the line and carried a sign and posted on social media to support this movement.”