In 1960, SAG and WGA struck to force management to adapt to the new technology of television. Without that strike and the agreement it birthed, residual use payments would not exist.
My parents forced me to be a child actor, and stole nearly all of my salary from my entire childhood. My Star Trek residuals were not much, but they were all I had, and they kept me afloat for two decades while I rebuilt my life. I have healthcare and a pension because of my union. The AMPTP billionaires want to take all that security away so they can give CEOs even more grotesque wealth at the expense of the people who make our industry run.
We must now fight for the future of our industry in the face of changing technology, the same way our elders fought for us in 1960.
To give some sense of what is at stake: There are actors who star in massively successful, profitable, critically acclaimed shows that are all on streaming services. You see them all the time. They are famous, A-list celebrities. Nearly all of those actors don’t earn enough to qualify for health insurance, because the studios forced them to accept a buyout for all their residuals (a decade of reuse, at the least) that is less than I earned for one week on TNG. And I was the lowest paid cast member in 1988. They want to do this while studio profits and CEO compensation are at historic highs. Nearly 9 in 10 SAG-AFTRA members does not earn the $26,470 required to qualify for health insurance. Meanwhile, studio executives are pocketing tens of millions of dollars of bonuses and compensation. Each. (CNN: “When Iger rejoined Disney as CEO in November 2022, he agreed to an annual base salary of $1 million with a potential annual bonus of $2 million. The agreement also includes stock awards from Disney totaling $25 million [and] Netflix’s co-CEOs Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters made $50 million and $28 million, respectively, in 2022, according to a company filing.”)
Those billionaire CEOs complain that what we are asking for is unrealistic and unsustainable. They say we — we — are destroying the industry that was so profitable and successful for a century before they arrived.
I realize they want to remodel their third vacation home so they don’t embarrass any of the guests they take there on their yacht. My heart just aches for them as they struggle to keep up with a changing business model. Here’s the thing: if the current business model of the industry only functions when labor allows itself to be exploited so that executives make thousands of times their salaries, that business model should be destroyed.
If workers refusing to be exploited makes a CEO’s bloated salary unsustainable, I think that’s kind of the point.
We in Labor aren’t hurting our industry. We’re fighting to save it from predatory sociopaths who will gleefully watch people lose their homes and go hungry, rather than release 2% of their grotesque wealth to ensure a healthy industry for everyone.
I mean, if not now, when? And I haven’t even touched on AI and working conditions. I’m only talking about the fundamental ability and opportunity to make a living, to survive and hope to thrive, in the entertainment industry.
We must now fight for the future of our industry in the face of changing technology, the same way our elders did for us in 1960. So today, my Spacemom and I went to the place where it started for us, way back when, to do just that.
I see all your support. It means so much. Thank you.