The current contract between the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists expires Friday at midnite, and the actors have authorized their leaders to strike if no deal can be reached. The Writers Guild of America, representing over 11,000 screenwriters, has already been on strike for two months. Amidst worker turmoil in her industry, Academy Award-winning actress, Sally Field, highlights the importance of unions and “sticking together” when it comes to these negotiations.
Field says unions are “incredibly important” for workers throughout the country, and she has witnessed how indispensable they are in her 59 years in the entertainment industry. She explained in the current negotiations, “Our unions are doing what they do. They are negotiating and scrambling, and they will find our way out of this. The writers will. We don’t know if the actors are going to go out even though they’ve been given the authority to do that. The directors have settled. And our industry will continue to thrive. And the unions are incredibly important in that.”
Field was interviewed last night after a screening of Norma Rae to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the gender equity organization Women in Film. Field won an academy award in 1979 for her role as Norma Rae, a factory worker in the South who fights to unionize her textile factory. The film is based on the true story of Crystal Lee Sutton. In one iconic scene from the movie, Norma Rae takes a piece of cardboard, writes the word “UNION” on it, stands on her work table, and slowly turns to show the sign to her coworkers around the room.
Last night, Field distinguished herself from the famous character, stating, “I feel very protective of Norma and this character, and I know she represents someone who stood on a table with a union sign over her head. That’s Norma; that’s not me. I hope I would have the guts to do that, but I haven’t as of yet. And I may someday, but not if all of us stand together.”
It’s unclear whether the actors and writers will stand together by striking. The Writers Guild has been on strike since the beginning of May. Both the writers and actors have highlighted the need for contract changes due to the industry disruption brought on by streaming services. The Directors Guild, representing directors and members of the directorial teams, averted a strike by reaching a deal earlier this month.
Also, in early June, the Screen Actors Guild voted to authorize a strike if an agreement could not be negotiated. A whopping 97.9% of those who voted favored striking, if necessary. After the vote, over 300 actors, including A-listers like Meryl Streep, Amy Poehler and Jennifer Lawrence, signed a letter highlighting the importance of these negotiations. “We feel that our wages, our craft, our creative freedom, and the power of our union have all been undermined in the last decade. We need to reverse those trajectories,” the actors wrote.
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