The Speech You Need Against Wall Street Greed
Ripples of hope: Watch SAG/AFTRA President Fran Drescher's courageous and galvanizing speech against the obscene greed of CEOs and corporations while labor suffers. Actors are officially on strike.
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“We are labor and we stand tall and we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. You share the wealth because you cannot exist without us!” — Fran Drescher, union president for SAG/AFTRA
Fran Drescher pulled a real life Norma Rae (which was based on a real story) in a speech that is a must watch for our times, calling out greedy corporations and obscenely paid CEOs as she announced that Hollywood actors were officially joining striking writers after negotiations with studios failed to address their primary concerns.
The President of the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists pointed out that the eyes of the world were on them as the studios have made Wall Street and greed their priority, “What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.”
Actors are seeking higher pay, updated contracts that consider the industry change to streaming and safeguards against unauthorized use of their images through artificial intelligence. As one example of what studios are trying to do, they want to replace background actors with AI after one day's pay, and be able to use that person’s image forever, for any reason, without their consent, like a Black Mirror episode come to life.
The base pay for a union background (extra) actor is about $187 per day. The studios try to use movie stars as examples of actors being greedy, but in reality, most union actors struggle to make a living.
The full speech (my bold):
Thank you, Duncan [Crabtree-Ireland, SAG negotiator], and thank you everybody for coming to this press conference today. It’s really important that this negotiation be covered because the eyes of the world, and particularly the eyes of labor, are upon us. What happens here is important because what’s happening to us is happening across all fields of labor by means of when employers make Wall Street and greed their priority and they forget about the essential contributors that make the machine run.
We have a problem and we are experiencing that right at this moment. This is a very seminal hour for us. I went in in earnest thinking that we would be able to avert a strike. The gravity of this move is not lost on me or our negotiating committee or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike. It’s a very serious thing that impacts thousands, if not millions, of people all across this country and around the world. Not only members of this union but people who work in other industries that service the people that work in this industry.
And so it came with great sadness that we came to this crossroads, but we had no choice. We are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. 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. They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment. We stand in solidarity, in unprecedented unity.
Our union and our sister unions and the unions around the world are standing by us, as well as other labor unions, because at some point 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. This is a moment of history that is a moment of truth. If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble. We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines.
And Big Business who cares more about Wall Street than you and your family. Most of Americans don’t have more than $500 in an emergency. This is a very big deal and it weighed heavy on us. But at some point, you have to say, “No, we’re not going to take this anymore. You people are crazy. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to us?”
Privately they all say, “We’re the center of the wheel. Everybody else tinkers around our artistry,” but actions speak louder than words and there was nothing there. It was insulting. So we came together in strength and solidarity and unity with the largest strike authorization vote in our union’s history. And we made the hard decision that we tell you as we stand before you today. This is major, it’s really serious, and it’s going to impact every single person that is in labor. We are fortunate enough to be in a country right now that happens to be labor-friendly. And yet we were facing opposition that was so labor-unfriendly, so tone deaf, to what we are saying.
You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too. We are not going to keep doing incremental changes on a contract that no longer honors what is happening right now with this business model that was foisted upon us. What are we doing? Moving around furniture on the Titanic? It’s crazy. So the jig is up, AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). We stand tall. You have to wake up and smell the coffee.
We are labor and we stand tall and we demand respect and to be honored for our contribution. You share the wealth because you cannot exist without us. Thank you.
This is a story about more than actors. It is the about the struggle for the right to earn a living versus corporate greed that only views people as costs to be reduced or eliminated.
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