Shortly before television and movie actors went on strike on July 14, SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher spoke at a press conference about why her union was headed for the picket lines. Her voice trembling with barely contained rage, the former star of the hit ‘90s sitcom The Nanny didn’t waste a word.
Drescher called on her union’s 160,000 members to make the collective sacrifices necessary to win a prolonged strike against some of this nation’s wealthiest corporations — Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Disney, Paramount, etc. She also appealed for the support of the broader labor movement and the public at large to support the union. In this strike, the workers are not only fighting for better pay and working conditions but for the possibility that workers in all fields affected by will be able to exert any control over how artificial intelligence (AI) is deployed and to whose benefit.
Drescher’s short soliloquy went viral and received millions of views. It’s worth a look.
In a world where public figures are often content to communicate in bland talking points, Drescher’s short speech was a master class in how to speak simultaneously to multiple constituencies with rhetoric that explains and galvanizes at the same time.
Drescher’s speech came on the heels of a story from Deadline about corporate CEOs from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers’ (AMPTP) plan to crush strikes by the actors and the screenwriters (who have been on the picket line since May 2) by starving them out until they start losing their homes and apartments. The stark nature of Hollywood’s class war couldn’t have been made clearer. Most of SAG-AFTRA’s members are not rich and famous. But some of them are, and they have millions of fans who they can communicate directly with through social media as they fight for the future of their craft. Unfortunately for the studio bosses, who know more about manipulating spreadsheets than how to command a stage, they are up against a union whose members, by definition, are some of the world’s most talented communicators. We’ll see how this plays out in the months ahead.
‘If we don’t stand tall right now, we are all going to be in trouble.’
“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 are the victims here. We are being victimized by a very greedy entity. I am shocked by the way the people 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. 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, being replaced by machines. You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too. We’re 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. 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.”
— Fran Drescher
President of SAG-AFTRA