SAG/AFTRA Members Hold the Line

In The Key Of Solidarity

Volume C, No. 10October, 2000

With contract negotiations set to resume on Sept. 13 between striking members of the Screen Actors and the Radio and Television Artists and the advertising industry, some high-profile actors, headed by Paul Newman and Jason Robards, launched a two-week public relations blitz to support the strikers.

The unions also announced that Maverick Media, which handles radio and television ads for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, finally has signed an interim agreement with the unions, pledging to use only union actors in their commercials. Vice President Al Gore’s media group signed the same agreement in May.

Some 135,000 SAG and AFTRA members struck the advertising industry May 1 over management demands to roll back actors’ residuals for commercials.

Striking actors turned out in force at New York City’s Labor Day parade on Sept. 9, marching up Fifth Avenue to cheers and applause.

And the Emmy awards live broadcast on Sept. 10 was a sea of support for the strikers, with a majority of the actors in attendance wearing gold ribbons in solidarity. They are concerned not only about the current bitter strike, but about the upcoming negotiations by writers’ and actors’ unions next spring and summer.

Actor-director Charles S. Dutton (The Corner) told reporters he was wearing a yellow ribbon “to support the union and their actors’ strike. I’d like to say that all of the athletes and politicians who are doing commercials as scabs should be kicked in their respective you know whats,” Dutton said.

The West Wing’s Aaron Sorkin said he and Rick Cleveland are “proud members” of the Writers Guild, and they support all the unions. “We feel for them, support them, and fear what could happen next year,” Sorkin said, adding that his Wing colleague John Wells’ letter as head of the Writers Guild West, urging members not to contribute to network stockpiling, is absolutely right. “Of course we can’t make it easier for them to stay away from the negotiation table.”

Sela Ward, who won an Emmy for her lead role in the drama Once and Again, told reporters she supports the strike. “I wish it were over. I’d like to go back to working for Sprint,” she said, noting that she supported herself for years on the money she made from commercials.