SAG-AFTRA local union joins nationwide strike

Nashville actors, writers picket at Nashville’s union headquarters to bring attention to strike.
Nashville actors, writers picket at Nashville’s union headquarters to bring attention to strike.
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 12:16 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Dozens of people rallied outside of the Nashville SAG-AFTRA building on Music Row Monday afternoon. The local members of SAG-AFTRA are standing in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA nationwide after failing to reach a deal with Hollywood studios.

“We’re the waiters, we’re the receptionist checking people in. We’re the background artists and without us you have a very unhappy production,” said Colette Divine.

Divine is an actress who participated in the union’s rally. The SAG-AFTRA strike is happening because the union couldn’t come to an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, also known as AMPTP.

“We just want a little piece of the pie like as Fran Drescher would say you know the jig is up!” said Carla Christina Contreras, the Vice President of Nashville SAG-AFTRA local.

Contreras shared her own experience with her residuals.

“My residuals have dwindled down to nothing. I mean they’re pennies sometimes, checks for three cents,” said Contreras.

Contreras just came back from Los Angeles as one of the negotiating committee members for the union.

“What the AMPTP offered us was literally 5% less than what we negotiated three years ago. So, everybody would be making 5% less than what they were making in 2020. There was no way we were going to present that to our membership, especially with the inflation,” said Contreras.

SAG-AFTRA members say they want better wages along with better health benefits.

“Our members have to earn $26,000 to qualify for their benefits. As it stands right now, because of the way the residual structure is 86% of our members are not qualifying for their health benefits. I mean that’s huge,” said Contreras.

On top of those issues, there are concerns that AI, or Artificial Intelligence, will eventually dominate the industry.

“You can’t replace a human being actor with AI forever because it resonates on the screen. What’s real, what’s not real. People don’t go to the movies, people don’t turn on their TVs to watch computers,” said Divine.

Dwight Turner participated in the rally. He has worked in front of and behind the cameras, and he’s striving for fairness because of the misconceptions people have about actors.

“You have the top echelon that does make a lot of money, but most of us are working professionals who are trying to make a working living and it’s becoming more and more difficult because of being squeezed by the studios because they want to please their top and their shareholders,” said Turner.

Drivers riding honked in solidarity for these members who say they just want a livable wage.

“We just want what everybody wants in the United States: a fair, working livable wage,” said Divine.

SAG-AFTRA Nashville represents members throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with approximately 1,600 members.

There’s no timetable of when the SAG-AFTRA strike will end.